Paul Manafort, the onetime chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors Friday as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to reduced charges from Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s office, heading off a second trial less than a month after a Virginia jury found him guilty of tax and bank fraud.
The plea deal, read aloud in a Washington, D.C., federal courtroom by Judge Amy Berman Jackson, will require Manafort to participate in interviews, provide documents in his control, testify in grand jury proceedings and agree to delays for his sentencing. Jackson noted that Manafort also agreed to waive the right to have his lawyers present during meetings with prosecutors.
The longtime lobbyist and Republican operative pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts. The first covered a variety of offenses, including money laundering and failing to disclose his lobbying work for Ukraine to the U.S. Justice Department. The second involved allegations he conspired with associate Konstantin Kilimnik to tamper with witnesses earlier this year.
Manafort, 69, appeared in court Friday with grayer hair and wearing a suit and light purple tie. He admitted to the offenses lead prosecutor Andrew Weissmann outlined from the lectern. Weissmann said Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent in connection with a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign he led in the United States, even though he knew he was required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to disclose his activity to the Justice Department.
“He did so intentionally and did so without registering as required by law,” Weissmann said.
After coming under scrutiny by federal authorities for his lobbying activities, Manafort lied to the Justice Department, falsely stating that his work for Ukraine did not involve outreach inside the United States and that his firm did not retain records of communications beyond 30 days. Weissmann added that an attorney helped Manafort with those submissions but was not aware that “what was being sent to the department at the time was false.”
Weissmann did not identify the attorney, whom he described as an “unwitting legal counsel,” but it was a reference to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner Melissa Laurenza, who was ordered in October 2017 to testify before a grand jury convened as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Manafort has been in a Virginia jail since June. Jackson ordered him detained after prosecutors alleged Manafort and Kilimnik sought to persuade two public relations professionals involved in their Ukrainian lobbying efforts to misrepresent their work as based in Europe, and not the U.S.
Friday’s guilty plea came three weeks after he was convicted by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, on fraud charges, along with one count of failing to disclose a foreign bank account.
Sentencing for those convictions will be delayed, according to the plea agreement.
Additionally, Manafort admitted guilt on Friday to 10 remaining counts that had resulted in a mistrial in Virginia. Jurors could not reach a verdict on those charges, which mostly consist of bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy charges. Prosecutors have agreed to drop those counts, according to Jackson.
Read the Plea Agreement: