It’s another development in the investigation of suspected Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Paul Manafort, the former chair of the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.
He’s also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors looking into links between Russia and the Trump campaign. CGTN’s Nathan King explained more with this report.
It was a big victory for the special counsel investigation looking into possible Trump campaign links with Russia and possible obstruction of justice.
Manafort, a longtime Washington lobbyist and influence peddler, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in a dramatic about-face in his legal strategy. He had been previously found guilty in a separate trial involving money laundering. Another trial was set to get underway next week.
Before his guilty plea, Manafort had refused, unlike others, to cooperate with prosecutors who are looking into links between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. That led the U.S. President to defend his former employee in a tweet last month:
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
All that has changed after Manafort’s lawyers said he is cooperating with the special counsel in return for reduced sentence. Even with this plea, Manafort is still facing ten years in jail. He must also forfeit several expensive properties and money.
The White House reaction came quickly. Administration officials were distancing themselves from Manafort. In a statement, Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, stated “This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign-It is totally unrelated.”
Factually, the White House is correct. The crimes that Manafort had admitted stem from personal behavior largely linked to his work with Ukraine. That’s long before he joined the Trump campaign. But prosecutors believe there may be information he knows that may be helpful.
The U.S. President has on multiple occasions called these investigations a witch hunt. And yet, the Mueller investigation has led to guilty pleas from Trump’s first national security advisor, a foreign policy advisor and now a campaign manager, as well as others. 26 Russian nationals have also been charged and the investigation is still underway.