Manafort pleads guilty in cooperation deal; Skadden report an issue in charging document
Mugshot of Paul Manafort./Alexandria (Virginia) Sheriff’s Office via Wikimedia Commons.
Updated: President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of conspiracy on Friday in a deal that requires cooperation in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
A prosecutor for Mueller, Andrew Weissmann, didn’t elaborate on what type of cooperation was necessary.
According to Politico, the deal calls for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, to be served concurrently with a sentence in a separate Virginia case. He will also forfeit four homes and money in several bank accounts, according to the Times.
Prosecutors dropped five charges related to money laundering and failure to register as a foreign lobbyist. Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice for trying to influence the testimony of two witnesses.
The information says Manafort conspired to act as an unregistered agent for the government of Ukraine and its former pro-Russian president, Victor Yanukovych, generating more than $60 million in income. The document accuses Manafort of using offshore accounts to hide income, cheating the United States out of more than $15 million in taxes.
As part of Manafort’s lobbying scheme, Manafort solicited a U.S. law firm to write a report evaluating the trial of Yanukovych’s political opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko. The idea was to use the report to defend Tymoshenko’s trial, the information says.
The law firm was not identified in the information, but previous reports have said the Ukraine Ministry of Justice had hired Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 2012 to prepare a report on the Tymoshenko trial. The Skadden report concluded Tymoshenko was denied counsel at critical stages of her trial but her conviction was supported by evidence.
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. Those facts were not disclosed to the public.
Manafort also knew the law firm was retained to represent Ukraine in connection with the Tymoshenko case and to provide training to prosecutors in the case, the information said.
Manafort used one of his offshore accounts to funnel $4 million to pay the law firm—a fact he didn’t disclose to the public, the information said. Ukraine had said the report cost $12,000.
The lead lawyer on the Skadden report, Greg Craig—who also was White House counsel in the Obama Administration—left Skadden in April.
Manafort’s trial in Washington, D.C., had been scheduled to begin Monday before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.
A jury in a second case against Manafort in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted him in August on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, while deadlocking on 10 other financial fraud and tax evasion charges. Charges on which the jury deadlocked will be dropped as part of the Washington, D.C., plea deal.
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Updated throughout at 11:16 a.m.