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Manafort Agrees to Cooperate With Mueller as Part of Plea Deal

Paul Manafort (center) arrives at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., November 2, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort pled guilty to two federal conspiracy charges on Friday as part of a deal with prosecutors that hinges on his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Manafort, 69, entered guilty pleas in a Washington, D.C. federal court to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice after he attempted to tamper with witnesses.

The charges against him are not directly related to the Trump campaign, but prosecutors have devoted special scrutiny to his contacts with Russians and Ukrainians. Manafort resigned from the campaign after about five months when those contacts came to light in August, 2016.

Prosecutors plan to drop the rest of the charges in the case against the long-time political consultant pending his full cooperation with Mueller’s investigation.

“He wanted to make sure his family remained safe and lived a good life,” Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing said of his client. “He has accepted responsibility.”

“Manafort cheated the United States out of over $15 million in taxes,” read a document detailing the offenses Manafort now admits to committing, including keeping funds in offshore accounts to hide them from the Internal Revenue Service.

The plea deal would allow Manafort a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, but he still faces a possible sentence from a separate trial in Virginia, in which he was convicted on eight felony counts, including tax and bank fraud. As part of the deal, he also waived his right to have a lawyer present for debriefings and interviews with Mueller’s team.

Manafort, a staple of the Washington lobbying world and adviser to Republican candidates for decades, originally fought the charges against him, and had not previously been expected to become a potential witness for the special counsel.

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