US Politics

Trump's ex-campaign chair Paul Manafort to cooperate in Russia probe

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Donald Trump's former campaign chairman has cut a "co-operation agreement" with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges related to Ukrainian consulting work.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has pleaded guilty to two federal crimes after cutting a deal with US prosecutors and agreeing to co-operate with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

The move allows Manafort to avoid a second criminal trial and ends his more than year-long fight against investigators in the Russia probe.

Manafort was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces seven to 10 years in prison in that case.

Sept 14, 2018: Courtroom sketch of former Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort at federal court in Washington.
Sept 14, 2018: Courtroom sketch of former Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort at federal court in Washington.
AAP

On Friday, prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court that Manafort had struck a "co-operation agreement" and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.

"He's accepted responsibility," Manafort's lawyer Kevin Downing, said.

"This is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that."

The charges do not relate to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which is the central issue in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia.

Still, Friday's move gives Mueller another successful conviction while allowing Manafort to avoid facing another costly public trial.

The trial would have focused on allegations he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests.

Mueller also gained a key co-operator in Manafort, who participated in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that Donald Trump Jr took despite it being described as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's campaign.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the Manafort case has nothing to do with Trump.

"This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign," she said.

"It is totally unrelated."

2016: Paul Manafort in his role as campaign chairman ahead of the opening session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
2016: Paul Manafort in his role as campaign chairman ahead of the opening session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
AAP

Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the president did nothing wrong.

"Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign," he said.

Under the terms of Friday's plea deal, prosecutors dropped the bulk of the charges against Manafort, filing new charges including conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

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