Paul Manafort's now-troubled plea bargain poses challenges, as does the Mueller probe


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By Tom Winter and David K. Li

Robert Mueller's allegations that Paul Manafort broke his plea agreement by lying to investigators could pose significant challenges to President Trump's special advisor and campaign president.

The exact nature of Manafort's alleged transgressions was not revealed immediately, but prosecutors claimed that he had lied "to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to the office of the special council on various issues, which constitute violations. of the agreement ".

Manafort was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, in August, on eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and concealment of foreign bank accounts.

Then, under a cooperation agreement with the prosecutors of September 14, Manafort sought to get far less than the maximum of 10 years in prison that he could now incur.

This latest legal upheaval has serious potential implications for all concerned.

What this could mean for Manafort's future

Mueller no longer has the obligation to tell the judge how much Manafort could have been useful.

In addition, the agreement signed by Manafort locked him into his guilty pleas and financial lapses, notably in his house in the Hamptons and his apartments in New York.

The agreement specifically states that federal prosecutors may apply for "a positive start" in their sentencing application, which means that they may apply for a sentence of imprisonment greater than that for which he or she pleaded for his confessed criminal behavior. He expected less than 10 years in prison in the Alexandria case in Virginia.

Under the terms of his contract, Manafort agreed not to appeal the sentences in the Alexandria or District of Columbia case where he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and a conspiracy to obstruct justice by altering witnesses.

The alleged violation of Manafort's plea agreement also opens the way for a further attempt on 10 charges for which the Alexandria jury was in stalemate. summer.

In this case, the judge had already dismissed these charges without prejudice, which meant that they could be upheld following Manafort's guilty plea and cooperation agreement.

Now, Manafort can be replayed and, even worse, have the jury say that he admitted to committing these crimes.

Finally, Mueller's team announced Monday night that it would submit a "detailed sentence submission" to the Probation Department and Manafort DC Judge prior to the sentencing, detailing what they qualify as of "crimes and lies".

What it could mean for the Mueller probe

A possible broken deal represents "a real blow" for Mueller, as he lost a witness and all the past information passed on by Manafort is now seriously weakened, said analyst and former MSNBC federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman. .

"For many, including me, Paul Manafort could have helped Bob Mueller get to the bottom of things. And this is particularly relevant for people who may not have used email, such as the president, "said Goldman.

"If someone does not have a written record, you need a cooperating witness to find out what conversations have taken place." And I think that not being able to get that information and use it through Paul Manafort is a real blow to the special council because it can not be used anymore. "

Manafort was not only Trump's campaign chairman, he also led the 2016 GOP congress, which quietly adopted a favorable board in Moscow. The RNC eliminated specific calls to provide arms to Ukraine in its fight and weakened the language criticizing Russia for its treatment of Kiev.

Manafort also attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. President's son Donald Trump Jr attended the meeting. his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort.

Any key information provided by Manafort will now require an additional backup.

"For prosecutors to be able to use the information, even if he (Manafort) has given truthful information, they can not rely on him to testify to this information," said Goldman. "Then they have to find it somewhere else."

The potential for forgiveness

The latest developments have caused Manafort to cast the die on the relief of the White House.

"There is already a lot of speculation about the forgiveness that he has received," said Goldman.

When NBC News on Tuesday questioned President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, about a possible thanks to Manafort, the former mayor of New York City did not answer the question directly.

But he complained that the special council and "their zeal to get from the president" could "go too far".

A Trump pardon, however, would have no bearing on any state charges against Manafort.

If prosecutors were suing him in New York, Virginia or California – where Manafort had previously admitted to defrauding banks and evading taxes – the former campaign chairman might consider a significant prison sentence that could not be erased by the presidential pardon.

Ken Dilanian contributed.


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