On Friday, Sept. 21, Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy against the United States and obstruction of justice. The former Trump campaign chairman was charged last month on eight of eighteen counts of bank and tax fraud after hiding millions of illegal earnings made lobbying in Ukraine.
Before the 2016 presidential election, Manafort worked as a lobbyist for former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was pro-Russia and a catalyst for increasing Russian involvement in American political affairs. He was controversially removed from office by the Ukrainian Parliament in 2014 on the grounds that he was unable to fulfill all of his duties as president.
As for Manafort, he made tens of millions of dollars lobbying for foreign governments. Most of his earnings went towards purchasing properties in the United States.
In 2016, Manafort began to have financial issues, and became heavily involved in President Trump’s campaign. He helped secure the future president as the Republican National Committee’s nominee but was asked to leave campaign soon after. Manafort’s involvement with Russia was revealed, and the campaign wanted to distance themselves from claims of Russian interference.
Since Manafort’s departure, the Trump administration has actively sought to avoid any contact with him.
“[Manafort’s ties with the Russian government] had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign,” said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “It is totally unrelated.”
In order to avoid an actual trial, Manafort accepted a plea bargain on Friday. The action confirms that Manafort had an official involvement with the Russian government and helped in tampering the 2016 presidential election. This also convicts Manafort of not reporting his lobbying work with the United States government, which is mandatory, and bribing witnesses to lie under oath. Now with taking the plea bargain, the witnesses’ false testimonies pile on to Manafort’s list of crimes.
As part of his sentence, Manafort must cooperate with the FBI’s ongoing investigation with Russian interference in the 2016 election, led by Robert Mueller. If Manafort chooses not to cede information, then he will be convicted of five additional charges not yet in his sentence. If he fully cooperates, then the government can request leniency from the judge regarding his sentence.
Manafort and his legal team have thus far only reiterated to Mueller’s special counsel that he has no information to offer connecting anyone in the Trump administration to the Russian government.
Although Manafort has fully admitted his crimes, there is a possibility of him being pardoned by President Trump. During the first trial, President Trump called Manafort “a good man” who was being severely mistreated by Mueller’s team.
Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, said in a recent interview that he mentioned the idea of a pardon in the early summer, but that the president had held off on the conversation until further notice.
As a further part of his punishment, Manafort was ordered to concede four properties, and several bank and investment accounts.
“I want to make sure that my family is able to remain safe and live a good life,” said Manafort to his lawyer, regarding his family. “I’ve accepted responsibility and this is for conduct that dates back many years.”