President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is pleading guilty to two criminal charges under plea deal terms to include his cooperation as a witness in the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Manafort's decision to cooperate in exchange for a lighter prison sentence is "a stunning development in the long-running probe into whether any Trump associates may have conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election," write Spencer Hsu and Devlin Barrett at the Washington Post:
Manafort's defenders have long insisted that he would not cooperate with Mueller, and didn't know any incriminating information against the president.
Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said at the beginning of Friday's plea hearing that Manafort has agreed to cooperate with investigators.
The plea hearing before U.S. District Court judge Amy Berman Jackson short-circuits his second trial, which was scheduled to begin this month in the District on charges of money laundering and lobbying violations.
A criminal information — a legal document filed by prosecutors to detail the criminal conduct to be admitted by the defendant — was filed in advance of the plea. The document shows Manafort intends to plead guilty to two crimes of the seven he faced at trial: conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiring to obstruct justice.
Remember this, from way back in 2017?
WATCH: In light of AP story re Manafort – take a look at his response to a simple question re Russian oligarch ties https://t.co/getQDJUZZG pic.twitter.com/Ic85K4fAE0
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) March 22, 2017
Hold on to your butts.
It's about to get a whole lot weirder.
MAJOR question: What is Manafort cooperating on? May not be Trump/collusion.
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 14, 2018
CNN reporting Special Counsel says Manafort has already begun giving information to Justice Department
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) September 14, 2018
A critical point from Chuck Rosenberg on @MSNBC: Whether conduct Manafort is pleading to is connected to Trump isn't relevant to what info he may provide to special counsel under cooperation agreement
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) September 14, 2018
This is big news. It means that Manafort made a major error by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees to fight the charges. This deal is not as good as the deal he would have gotten at the beginning. https://t.co/2C0aO9teqG
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 14, 2018
Breaking: Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chief, agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, as part of a plea deal https://t.co/efepgn5FlY
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 14, 2018
Trump dangled pardon for Manafort and it didn't work
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) September 14, 2018
FUN FACT: With the $46 million Manafort is forfeiting, Mueller's investigation is now more financially successful than Trump's casinos were.
— Daily Trix (@DailyTrix) September 14, 2018
Let's take a sec to remember to Katia Kelly, the Brooklyn grandmother and neighborhood blogger, who helped bring down Paul Manafort. https://t.co/1u3hXD2QtP
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) September 14, 2018
More crimes committed by Manafort in 2016 when hired by Trump: felony violations of FARA. https://t.co/QeWi2qVJ69
— Dafna Linzer (@DafnaLinzer) September 14, 2018
ANALYSIS: In the 15 month investigation led by Mueller (which was already well underway before his appointment) he has secured guilty pleas and cooperation agreements against Trump's National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and his campaign manager Paul Manafort.
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) September 14, 2018
how could anyone assume a cooperation agreement by the campaign chairman would be linked to the campaign https://t.co/HETf9dj5K9
— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) September 14, 2018
Nobody in the Trump campaign had closer ties to Russian-backed figures than Paul Manafort. If there was a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russians, it's impossible to imagine that he wasn't part of it.
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) September 14, 2018
SIREN: Manafort plea deal calls for "successful cooperation" with government–prosecutor https://t.co/KCMBWeZk0I
— Josh Gerstein (@joshgerstein) September 14, 2018
"He's not smiling at all. He's glum and quietly responding, 'yes, your honor,'" CNN's Evan Perez describes the scene in the court room where former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has just agreed to a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller's team pic.twitter.com/aFWEU2MYrd
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 14, 2018
Wow. Mueller got it in the end, as he has gotten it from everyone he has gone after so far. https://t.co/AP3vuQ8wqL
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) September 14, 2018
Trump has plenty to worry about with news that Manafort is cooperating with Mueller, but I imagine Don Jr., Jared Kushner and Roger Stone are just as concerned … ?
— Kate Brannen (@K8brannen) September 14, 2018
Could be cooperation against a number of people in the case. But this will make it harder for Trump team to make case that this is all winding down, because they don't know for certain who the cooperation is against. https://t.co/Y15YFUoJhI
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) September 14, 2018
As Bob Dylan would say, "Things have changed…" https://t.co/XJczFxe0DW
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) September 14, 2018