This afternoon ABC News is reporting that Special Counsel Mueller and Paul Manafort have reached a tentative plea deal which could allow Manafort to avoid a trial that was scheduled to begin soon:
The deal is expected to be announced in court Friday, but it remains unclear whether Manafort has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors or is simply conceding to a guilty plea, which would allow him to avoid the stress and expense of trial, according to three sources with knowledge of the discussions.
Manafort and his most senior defense attorneys spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of special prosecutors who are involved in the ongoing investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Manafort was convicted on 8 of 18 charges in a separate trial in Virginia that ended last month. He hasn’t been sentenced in that case yet. Another trial was to begin later this month based on charges filed against Manafort last year in Washington, DC. Those charges are the subject of the current plea deal.
Tuesday, there were reports that negotiations toward a possible plea deal were underway. The Post story also didn’t have any inside information on the key question: Will Manafort agree to some sort of guilty plea simply to avoid rolling the dice at trial or does this deal involve cooperating with Mueller against Trump.
Manafort is 69 years old and was just convicted on 8 counts which could seem him in prison for 7 years (in theory he’s facing 80 years but that’s unlikely). So there’s no hope of escaping this without some jail time. Why spend what money he has on another trial at this point?
But there’s still no real suggestion Manafort has something substantial to offer Mueller on Trump. Manafort was in the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, but one year ago Politico reported that Manafort’s notes from the meeting showed nothing that could damage the Trump family:
Notes from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a meeting he attended last year 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…
The notes from the meeting do not contain any damaging information about Clinton or references to promises of damaging information about her, nor do they indicate that officials on the campaign were promising favors or seeking them in return for money, the people who’ve seen them said.
So unless Manafort was lying to his own diary, so to speak, there doesn’t seem to be anything there to pursue. If the rumors are right, we should know more about what kind of deal this is tomorrow.