Is convicted felon Paul Manafort finally ready to give Bob Mueller the evidence he needs to bring down Donald Trump?
According to the Washington Post, Manafort is again having serious discussions with the special counsel’s office about a possible plea deal.
Ever since Mueller indicted Manafort on multiple criminal counts nearly one year ago that has been the biggest unanswered question.
There have been rumors of plea deals before, but nothing ever happened, presumably because the two parties couldn’t reach agreement on the details.
The really big question is this: Is Manafort going to give Bob Mueller the information he really wants, which is proof of his involvement with Russia in helping Donald Trump become president?
The Post’s sources said that the negotiations may not result in a deal which is not surprising, because they’ve done this dance before.
Mueller is now prosecuting Manafort for alleged money laundering and lobbying violations and his second trial is scheduled to start later this month.
This new reporting shows a possible shift in strategy for Manafort, and that could be significant. He already had a trial in Virginia and was convicted last month on eight counts of bank and tax fraud.
Manafort had heavily criticized his former business partner, Rick Gates, for reaching a plea deal with Mueller that provided him leniency in exchange for his testimony against Manafort.
“I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence,” Manafort said in February.
No details about Manafort’s current negotiations with prosecutors have been released, and so nobody knows right now whether he is willing to give Mueller any new incriminating information about the president that he doesn’t already have.
If Manafort can’t come up with valuable testimony to help Mueller, then there will be no deal.
Several weeks ago Kevin M. Downing, an attorney for Manafort, said there was “no chance” Trump’s former campaign manager would “flip” and start working with the prosecutors.
There has also been speculation that Manafort is more afraid of Vladimir Putin than he is of Bob Mueller. He may serve many years in federal prison but at least he will be alive.
Manafort’s apparent willingness now to talk to Mueller may upset Trump, who last month praised the convicted felon for not cooperating with the special counsel.
Prosecutors “applied tremendous pressure on him and . . . he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal,’ ” the president tweeted last month. “Such respect for a brave man!”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson pushed back the date of a scheduled pretrial hearing in Manafort‘s case from Wednesday to Friday. Court filings did not indicate the reason for the delay leading to speculation that the parties were hammering out the details of a plea deal.