Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is close to reaching a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday, a new report indicates.
According to ABC News, “Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has tentatively agreed to a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that will head off his upcoming trial, sources familiar with the negotiations tell ABC News.”
Of course, none of this means Manafort will be flipping on Trump. In fact, it could mean the opposite as the two men’s legal teams have been working closely together on matters related to the Russia investigation.
More from ABC News about the possible plea deal:
The deal is expected to be announced in court Friday, but it remains unclear whether Manafort has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors or is simply conceding to a guilty plea, which would allow him to avoid the stress and expense of trial, according to three sources with knowledge of the discussions.
Manafort and his most senior defense attorneys spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of special prosecutors who are involved in the ongoing investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
ABC News spotted the team arriving in a dark SUV Thursday morning, pulling into a secret entrance out of public view at the building where Special Counsel Robert Mueller is based.
Manafort and Trump are colluding to dodge Mueller
The news that Paul Manafort is nearing a plea deal with Robert Mueller doesn’t mean he will necessarily cooperate with the special counsel’s ongoing Russia investigation. In fact, there are signs that cooperation isn’t likely to be part of the agreement.
If the deal does not include cooperation and is simply an attempt to avoid a messy trial, then it’s clear what the former campaign manager is looking for: a pardon from Trump.
All of this makes sense given the fact that Trump‘s legal team and Manafort’s legal team have been working together in matters related to the Russia investigation. The reason Trump‘s team doesn’t appear at all worried about a possible deal is that they probably helped Manafort craft it – or they are aware of the potential terms.
As MSNBC‘s Matthew Miller pointed out on Thursday, if the Manafort deal doesn’t include cooperation, then it’s likely that Trump‘s team offered him something better than Mueller could.
I sure would like to know what the Manafort and Trump lawyers have been discussing through their joint defense agreement. If we see him plea without cooperating, it’s probably because he got a better deal from Trump. https://t.co/fTx42AV2hy
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) September 13, 2018
Not to mention the fact that the second potential Manafort trial is more closely related to Russia and the Trump campaign. It’s likely the last thing the White House wants to see plastered all over cable news for the next month.
Ultimately, the president’s looking for a guilty plea that can bring him two things: 1. No second Manafort trial; and 2. No cooperation with Mueller on the part of his former campaign manager. Given how much Manafort appears to want a pardon, there is a good chance he will deliver for Trump – especially since their teams have been coordinating.
No matter what the final deal is, one thing is clear: These aren’t the actions taken by innocent people.
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Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.