Paul Manafort, Pleading Guilty, Agrees to Work with Special Counsel Robert Mueller

White House, for its part, stresses that this decision was 'totally unrelated' to the president

Paul Manafort, the short-lived former chairman of President Donald Trump’s election campaign, pleaded guilty in federal court today in an arrangement that includes cooperation with the special counsel team run by Robert Mueller.

The plea deal covers the charges filed against Manafort in Washington, D.C., after he was found guilty in a separate case in Virginia back in August.

“I plead guilty,” Manafort told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman in Washington, as Fox News and others reported.

Many had expected this move after recent events.

Pleading guilty in the Washington case will allow Manafort to avoid a second trial, which would rely on much of the same evidence. And it appears the deal with federal prosecutors will let him serve the sentences for both cases at the same time, rather than risk their being “stacked” on top of each other.

This could have doubled the time that he spends in prison.

Reports also indicate that the sentence for the charges in this case will be capped at 10 years.

In the Washington case, Manafort was charged with a variety of crimes, including obstruction of justice, violations of lobbying disclosure laws, money laundering, conspiracy, and making false statements to investigators.

All of these charges are based on work that Manafort performed for the Russian government more than a decade before he ever joined Donald Trump’s campaign, including lobbying efforts he did not report to the IRS or other U.S. government agencies.

Prosecutors told the court that this is a cooperation agreement, meaning that Manafort will be agreeing to speak with special counsel Robert Mueller in exchange for leniency.

His sentencing will be delayed until after the special counsel and his team have decided that they are ready to move forward, which allows the judge to hear all of the evidence as part of his cooperation, including the results.

At that time, the remaining charges to which Manafort has not pleaded guilty will be dismissed.

Even if Manafort had not agreed to cooperate, signing a plea agreement would have made it easier for Mueller to subpoena Manafort’s testimony for the investigation, as he can no longer use Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination, having pleaded guilty to certain crimes.

There had been rumors that President Trump would issue a pardon to Manafort — an idea that was fueled further after the president tweeted back in August (after the Virginia verdict) that he had “such respect for a brave man!”

However, a cooperation agreement indicates that a pardon is unlikely.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Friday that Manafort’s decision to plead guilty was “totally unrelated” to the president, as Fox News noted. Trump’s legal team shared those sentiments as well.

“Once again, an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement provided to Fox News. “The reason: The president did nothing wrong.”

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” tweeted one person this morning.

Another person wrote: “’Justice’ took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”