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Considered a major development regarding President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his lawyers on Friday confirmed that prior to pleading guilty to charges at a court hearing Friday he has entered a cooperating agreement with the Department of Justice.
At the hearing, government prosecutor Andrew Weissman announced that Manafort had struck a "cooperation agreement" and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.
See the full text of the plea agreement below.
While the White House immediately responded by saying the Manafort deal with prosecutors has "nothing to do" with the president, the deal itself says that Manafort will cooperate with investigators on "any and all matters"—a clear indication that he will be asked questions and provide answers about the 2016 campaign.
Following the hearing, Manafort's attorney, Kevin Downing, addressed reporters outside the courthouse and stated that his client "wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life."
Downing continued by saying, "He's accepted responsibility. This is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that."
According to reporting, Manafort has already provided information to federal investigators – part of the ongoing probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
#Breaking: Paul Manafort has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department. Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge his plea agreement is a "cooperation agreement," and the other charges they will drop at sentencing at "or at the agreement of successful cooperation."
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— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) September 14, 2018
Last month, after Manafort was found guilty on eight felony counts in a previous criminal trial, Trump praised his former top aid for refusing to "break" under the legal pressure. Trump has also denounced the idea of cooperating plea agreements—suggesting they should not be allowed—and denounced people who "flip" on former associates.
According to Andrew Prokop at Vox.com:
It’s enormously important news for the Russia investigation. Many have long speculated that the special counsel’s main aim in charging Manafort with financial and lobbying crimes was to pressure him to "flip" — so he'd agree to provide information related to their true concern of whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere with the election.
Now, it's happened. And that should make President Donald Trump very nervous indeed.
"It finally happened," Prokop wrote. "Manafort flipped."
Manafort had no good options, wrote Mother Jones' political reporter David Corn. "Do you make a deal with Mueller or do you make a deal with Trump. Who can I really trust?" Corn tweeted. "Seems he made his decision."
Read the full text of the Manafort plea deal: