Washington (CNN) - Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman embattled by criminal indictments, may no longer fight the charges related to his Ukrainian lobbying operation.
Courtesy: MGN Online
He and the special counsel's office are close to a deal for a guilty plea ahead of his upcoming trial, according to a source familiar with the matter. A deal is expected but the source cautioned the two sides have been close before.
The incentive appears to be to reach a deal ahead of a pretrial motion hearing scheduled for Friday and before jury selection begins Monday in DC District Court. That's also a week before Manafort and prosecutors make new filings in Virginia to discuss the charges and convictions he faces there.
A plea Friday would bring to an end to one of the most active criminal cases in the DC federal court system this year. Manafort's lawyers have filed hundreds of pages in courts to fight prosecutors' allegations and have brought two appeals unsuccessfully, and his legal fees mounted to more than a million dollars, according to two people familiar with his case.
Proceedings scheduled for Monday would kick off a second grueling, expensive, politically explosive three-week-or-longer trial in federal court. Manafort faces seven counts of foreign lobbying violations, money laundering conspiracy and witness tampering. The trial was likely to put on display the secret dealings of Washington's lobbying and law firm elite.
Manafort is accused in DC of not disclosing to the Justice Department his work for Ukrainian politicians and laundering that income. Prosecutors allege he set up meetings with lawmakers and fashioned public relations efforts in the US on the Ukrainians' behalf.
A jury convicted Manafort in Virginia last month on eight bank and tax fraud charges related to his lobbying wealth after a three-week trial. The evidence was largely about how he had kept money off his books and relied on others to help him lie to banks and the government. At trial, prosecutors showed how Manafort worked for pro-Russian Ukrainians and funneled millions of dollars in income through Cypriot accounts.
It was not clear if the deal with the special counsel's office would include cooperation. The plea is expected to address both sets of charges he faces -- for the upcoming trial in DC and the 10 counts he still faces in Virginia.
Manafort has not yet entered a new plea before the judge in DC and prosecutors have not yet revealed the terms of any deal reached with him. If a deal comes through, it will likely be announced at the court hearing at 11 a.m. Friday.
In the last few days, the prosecutors' activities shifted from trial preparation to negotiations, according to a person familiar with the case.
Then indications added to the possibility that a plea deal was in the works. Members of Manafort's legal team were spotted spending several hours at the special counsel office's Thursday, even sending a junior member of the defense team to bring lunch inside. Uzo Asonye, a prosecutor who tried Manafort's case in Virginia, was also at the office Thursday.
Several news outlets reported on possible ongoing talks this week. ABC News reported Thursday evening that Manafort had tentatively agreed to a deal.
The judge overseeing his case in DC, Amy Berman Jackson, delayed a major court hearing about his upcoming trial twice this week. First, she moved it from Wednesday to Friday. Then, as lawyers inside the special counsel's office began to leave Thursday, the judge pushed the hearing back another hour and a half Friday morning, giving no reason.