Manafort's agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to cooperate "fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly" could put to the test U.S. President Donald Trump's denials of campaign collusion with Russian Federation, lawyers not involved in the case said.
After news broke of Manafort's plea Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign".
Manafort was in attendance at the now-infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between himself, Trump's son Donald Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a group of Russians led by a Kremlin-linked lawyer, as Inquisitr has covered.
The planned plea, if accepted by a judge, would short-circuit his second trial scheduled to begin later this month in the District of Columbia on charges of money laundering and lobbying violations.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort entered a guilty plea to two felonies Friday.
The law firm had privately told Manafort that Tymoshenko's criminal intent was "virtually nonexistent" and that it was unclear even among legal experts whether Tymoshenko had power to engage in conduct central to the case, the information alleged.
Prosecutors say that Manafort directed a large scale lobbying operation in the USA for Ukrainian interests without registering with the Justice Department as required by the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. According to NPR, Manafort has made a decision to plead guilty on Friday, Sept. 14, to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice by witness tampering.
The White House had previously distanced itself from Manafort and downplayed his time leading the Trump campaign.
Back in August, after Cohen pleaded guilty, Trump praised Manafort for refusing to "break", suggesting that Manafort holding strong was very much in his interest. The plea agreement requires him to cooperate completely with the government, which includes giving interviews without his attorney present and testifying before any grand juries or at any trials. "There's no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there's nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man".
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Friday's news may change the president's perspective.
"If Manafort is willing to give Mueller information about Trump's contacts with Russian Federation, whether the contacts were direct or indirect, then this really is a disaster for Trump and his associates".
"Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign", Giuliani said. On Friday morning, however, that refusal came to an abrupt end.
Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, told reporters outside the courthouse that it was "a tough day for Mr. Manafort".
Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to obstruct justice and conspiracy against the United States, including money laundering, tax fraud, failing to register as a foreign agent and lying to the government.
The Virginia case was the first brought by Mueller to go to trial, and the guilty finding by the jury - on eight of 18 charges - was a significant victory for Mueller's team.
Manafort served for several months on the campaign, including as campaign chairman, until he was sacked in August 2016, amid revelations of the scope of his consulting and lobbying work for Ukrainian politicians, including then-President Viktor Yanukovych.
The charges in the information say that Manafort will have to forfeit property that was derived from or traceable to his offenses. "Bada bing bada boom", Manafort wrote to a colleague, prosecutors say.