UPDATE – US: Ex-Trump campaign chairman pleads guilty


By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two criminal counts Friday in the latest legal victory for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed to the plea deal during a hearing at the D.C. federal courthouse. It allows Manafort to avoid a trial that was set to begin Monday and in exchange, cooperate with Mueller's probe, which is seeking to determine whether Trump's campaign colluded with what U.S. officials have called a Russian influence campaign in the 2016 election.

Manafort's cooperation includes participating in interviews, handing over documents and possible testimony. He is also ordered to forfeit multiple bank accounts and properties.

Sentencing has been delayed until Manafort completes his cooperation with Mueller.

The longtime political operative was convicted in a separate case in August on charges that could bring an effective life sentence.

The charges he pleaded guilty to are related to his lobbying work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party. They include conspiracy against the United States, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He faced a total of seven charges at court. Prosecutors dropped the additional five.

Manafort pleaded guilty to concealing millions of dollars from tax officials by funneling the funds into overseas accounts. "MANAFORT cheated the United States out of over $15 million in taxes," the criminal information states.

"Manafort laundered more than $30 million to buy property, goods, and services in the United States, income that he concealed from the United States Treasury, the Department of Justice, and others," the document states.

The document said the Trump campaign chairman worked "to influence, delay and prevent the testimony of" two witnesses.

"Tough day for Mr. Manafort but he's accepted responsibility," Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing told reporters outside of the courthouse. "He wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life. He has accepted responsibility, and everybody should remember that."

Following news of his plea deal the White House sought to emphasize that Manafort's deal "had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated.”