Ex-Trump aide Manafort tentatively agrees to plea deal

REPORT: Manafort Wants

WASHINGTON ― Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has reached a tentative plea deal with the special counsel team led by Robert Mueller, reported ABC News and NPR on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Manafort and a representative for the special counsel's office both declined to comment.

Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud in federal court in Virginia in August, a development that was widely viewed as a victory for Mueller's team in his first court test of the Russian Federation probe.

It was not clear which charges Manafort might plead guilty to or whether he would co-operate with Mueller's team in its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion with the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice by Trump.

Notes from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a meeting he attended a year ago with a Russian lobbyist and Donald Trump Jr. are not seen as damaging to the Trump family or campaign officials, according to government officials and others who have looked at the notes...

Those charges are the subject of the current plea deal.

The plea agreement makes Manafort the latest member of Trump's inner circle to cooperate with the investigation that has loomed over his presidency.

Prosecutors have approached the second trial much like the first: with a wealth of documentary evidence and a range of witnesses who worked with Manafort. A pretrial hearing, postponed this week, is scheduled for Friday.

The defense has planned to show that the special counsel had targeted Manafort because he had headed Trump's presidential campaign.

Manafort hasn't been sentenced in that case, but the prospect of that prison time and more punishment in the District of Columbia may have induced him and his lawyers to seek to avoid the second trial. His onetime business partner and protégé, Rick Gates, made such a deal and appeared as the government's star witness against Manafort in his Virginia trial last month.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson is presiding over the case in D.C.

Since Manafort's guilty verdict in August, speculation has mounted that Trump could pardon him.

In the Virginia trial, prosecutors said Manafort hid from USA 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.

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