Paul Manafort pleads guilty, cooperates with special counsel

By Eric Tucker, Chad Day and Michael Balsamo

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to two federal crimes after cutting a deal with prosecutors and agreeing to cooperate with the special counsel’s Russia probe.

The move allows him to avoid a second criminal trial and ends Manafort’s more than yearlong fight against investigators in the Russia investigation.

Manafort was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces 7 to 10 years in prison in that case.

On Friday, prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court that Manafort had struck a “cooperation agreement” and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.

“He wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life. He’s accepted responsibility. This is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that,” Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, said.

The charges do not relate to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which is the central issue in the special counsel’s investigation into possible contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Still, Friday’s move gives Mueller another successful conviction while allowing Manafort to avoid facing another costly public trial that this time focused on allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests.

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