Paul Manafort Reaches Tentative Plea Deal With Robert Mueller's Team

REPORT: Manafort Wants

ABC News reported Thursday evening that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has reportedly agreed in principle to a "plea deal" with special counsel Robert Mueller that will ensure trial number two in Washington, D.C. never happens.

Manafort's lawyers have been in talks with Mueller's team about a plea deal for at least the last few weeks.

However, according to ABC News, it wasn't yet clear whether Manafort was accepting a bargain that would lighten the punishment in exchange for cooperation with the Robert Mueller probe or was entering a guilty plea to avoid a trial.

Legal experts say that given the timeline of the trial, it's unlikely prosecutors would agree to a plea deal that doesn't involve an agreement to cooperate with the government. "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - makeup stories in order to get a 'deal".

As recently as last month, Trump praised his former campaign manager, who he said said was a "brave man" who "refused to break". A second case was opened in Virginia earlier this year on related charges that ended with a jury finding Manafort guilty on eight counts out of an 18-count indictment, facing a maximum of 80 years behind the bars, though under sentencing guidelines the term is likely to be closer to seven years.

A second trial could delve deeper into Manafort's Russian connections including to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller's team has linked to Russian intelligence. He was one of three Trump associates present at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, arranged after Donald Trump Jr. The jury there was deadlocked on 10 others.

A pretrial conference scheduled for Friday morning, rescheduled late Thursday night.

In the Virginia trial, prosecutors said Manafort hid from U.S. tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle that included purchasing multimillion-dollar properties, an ostrich skin jacket and other valuables. Doing so could jeopardize his chances at a presidential pardon. Prosecutors said he evaded taxes on $16 million laundered through shell companies overseas.

Before joining Trump's campaign, Manafort worked extensively for pro-Kremlin politicians and oligarchs in Ukraine.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial.

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