Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal charges and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating links to Russian election interference, developments that could add momentum to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Mr. Manafort, who becomes the fifth associate of President Trump’s to plead guilty in connection with federal investigations, admitted to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He already was convicted last month by a federal jury in Virginia of not reporting to tax authorities more than $16 million he earned for political consulting work in Ukraine in the early 2010s. criminal trial for Mr. Manafort that was to begin next week. That trial, in Washington, D.C., was set to cover additional charges related to that Ukraine work. In connection with the agreement, Mr. Manafort agreed to forfeit four of his multimillion-dollar homes, including a Brooklyn townhome and an estate on Long Island, and funds in multiple bank accounts. Other terms of the deal couldn’t immediately be determined.Paul Manafort Convicted: How the Trial Unfolded former campaign manager, guilty of eight counts of fraud, but couldn’t reach a verdict on 10 other counts. Photo: Associated Press
The cooperation agreement raises the legal and political pressure on Mr. Trump less than two months before midterm elections that will decide control of Congress. His former campaign chairman and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, are now both cooperating with a prosecutor tasked with probing whether Trump associates aided what the U.S. has said was an influence campaign by Russian interests designed to help Mr. Trump win in 2016.
Mr. Mueller is also looking into whether Mr. Trump sought to obstruct justice by firing Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey in May 2017, while the FBI’s Russia probe was under way. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that the Manafort case “had absolutely nothing to do” with Mr. Trump or the 2016 campaign. Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, said in a statement that Mr. Trump “did nothing wrong.” Mr. Manafort had previously resisted any notion of cooperating with Mr. Mueller, and his lawyer said at the outset of the Virginia trial that there was no chance of such cooperation. Mr. Manafort, 69 years old, has been in jail since June, after he was accused of trying to influence the testimony of a potential witness against him.