Trump ex-campaign chief Manafort 'strikes plea deal'

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort has chose to plead guilty to charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and avoid a second criminal trial, but it's unclear whether he will cooperate with Mueller's inquiry into Russian election interference.

The superseding criminal information filed by Mueller's office says Manafort acted as an unregistered foreign agent and engaged in money laundering, tax fraud, lying to the Justice Department and witness tampering. The charges, which replace the existing indictment of Manafort, were done as a "criminal information", a legal document that can only be filed with the defendant's consent. He could also get a pardon from Trump, which would set off a political firestorm. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts.

The exact details of the agreement, as of 10 a.m. EST, remained unclear, including whether or not Manafort would cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his Russia-related investigation.

Manafort's conviction in Alexandria, Virginia, last month was at a trial arising from Mueller's investigation.

Prosecutors had filed new charging documents against Manafort. But Trump's presidential pardon powers only exist at the federal level, and if Manafort were to be convicted in any possible state-level prosecutions, the president couldn't grant a pardon.

The court then changed Manafort's scheduled appearance later in the morning to an arraignment and plea hearing.

Manafort had the option of rolling all the charges he faced into one trial, but chose not to.

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The charges include conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The punishment that Manafort may receive related to his D.C. case, and any cooperation he may have offered the government, weren't immediately clear.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and was elevated to chair in May.

At the time of Gates' plea, Manafort issued a statement saying he "had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence".

"It's not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty. Nothing to do with Russian Federation collusion".

Manafort made millions of dollars working for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians before taking an unpaid position with Trump's campaign for five months.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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