Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, exits the District Courthouse after a motion hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday, May 4, 2018.
Paul Manafort, who once headed President Donald Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy charges and has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigations under a new plea deal.
Manafort’s plea deal with Mueller, which dramatically ramps up the legal and political danger already facing Trump, came just three days before Manafort was set to begin jury selection for the second of his two federal criminal trials.
Prosecutors said the deal includes a 17-page cooperation agreement with Mueller.
Mueller is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and possible collusion by members of Trump’s campaign in that effort. Mueller is also looking into whether Trump obstructed justice in an effort to influence the Russia probe.
The crimes that Manafort, 69, admitted to in U.S. District Court in Washington relate to consulting work and money earned from that work on behalf of pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine. That work predated the veteran Republican operative’s tenure on the Trump campaign.
“This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “It is totally unrelated.”
Manafort, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and purple tie, admitted guilt to revised charges of just two counts of conspiracy, which will effectively consolidate and resolve the two pending criminal cases against him in Washington and in Virginia federal courts.
The two charges are conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice by witness tampering. The first count relates to a wide array of underlying criminal conduct.
Manafort was convicted last month in the Virginia case of bank fraud and tax crimes, which also was connected to his work in Ukraine.
He had been scheduled to begin jury selection for his second trial in Washington on Monday for charges that included money laundering, failing to register as an agent of a foreign government and witness tampering.
Friday’s plea deal resolves both cases, and substantially winnows down the more than 20 criminal counts that Manafort either still faced or had already been convicted of.
Manafort has been held without bond in jail since June after being charged with trying to influence witnesses against him.
Read Mueller’s case against Manafort: