“This is a big win for Mueller’s team. Gaining Manafort’s cooperation has always been viewed as the Holy Grail of this investigation,” said a former prosecutor.
President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s plea deal could help special counsel Robert Mueller answer some of the most critical questions about whether any Americans conspired with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, the Washington Post reports. The decision to cooperate with Mueller in hopes of a lesser prison sentence is a stunning development, signaling Manafort’s surrender to criminal charges that he cheated the Internal Revenue Service, violated foreign lobbying laws and tried to obstruct justice, while opening a new potential legal vulnerability for Trump.
As part of his plea, Manafort admitted to years of financial crimes to hide his money from the IRS and promised to tell the government about “his participation in and knowledge of all criminal activities.” Flipping Manafort gives Mueller a cooperating witness who was at key events relevant to the Russia investigation — a Trump Tower meeting attended by a Russian lawyer, the Republican National Convention and a host of other behind-the-scenes discussions in the spring and summer of 2016. “This is a big win for Mueller’s team. Gaining Manafort’s cooperation has always been viewed as the Holy Grail of this investigation,” said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor, adding, “It is unlikely that prosecutors would have been willing to strike this deal unless they were already convinced that he has valuable information.” Manafort was talking in detail to prosecutors at least as early as Sept. 10. In return for his cooperation, Manafort hopes to have years shaved off a potential 10-year prison sentence and see his family hold on to some property. Kevin Downing, an attorney for Manafort, said, “He wanted to make sure his family remained safe and live a good life.”