What can Manafort tell Mueller? Adam Schiff offers some suggestions

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI  AFP

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP

Yuri Gripas/REUTERS/NewscomPaul Manafort, facing a second criminal trial about his secret financial ties to a former Russia-friendly Ukrainian president, has agreed to plead guilty to two charges and has agreed to cooperate with FBI Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

He will also be cooperating with the special counsel in its Russian Federation investigation, prosecutor Andrew Weissman told the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Friday.

Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second Manafort trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.

Manafort had refused to cooperate with Mr Mueller even as the Virginia jury convicted him on bank and tax fraud charges.

In 2010, the year Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine, he ran against Tymoshenko-and part of Manafort's anti-Tymoshenko work, according to the charging document, included undermining Tymoshenko in the U.S.by painting her as anti-Semitic and having a neo-Nazi connection.

In this photo taken July 21, 2016, then-Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort stands between the then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump during a walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The decision by Trump's onetime personal lawyer Michael Cohen to plead guilty last month in a federal investigation in Manhattan particularly angered the president, who denounced him as a "flipper". Manafort is the fifth person linked to Trump to plead guilty to criminal charges.

Schiff suggested that Manafort might also be able to shed light on any other illegal activity by the campaign. In comments to Politico before the plea deal, Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

"He knows nothing harmful to the president and the plea is the best evidence of that", Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters on Friday.

The move toward a guilty plea is another reversal for Manafort, who has fought vociferously - but unsuccessfully - against Mueller's probe.

With today's agreement, Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts: conspiracy against the United States including money laundering, tax fraud, operating as a foreign agent in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying to federal investigators; and witness tampering during his pre-trial release period. "He's accepted responsibility. This is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that", said attorney Kevin Downing.

Attorney Ken White, writing earlier upon news of Manafort's expected plea and before news of the cooperation, made a similar suggestion that a pardon would be politically self-destructive. He is yet to be sentenced in that case.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said of the Manafort news on Friday. In February, the former campaign chairman called out his business partner, Rick Gates, for deciding to make a deal-which cut him some slack in exchange for testifying against Manafort. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining 10 counts, which ended in mistrial.

At the time of Gates' plea, Manafort issued a statement saying he "had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence".

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