Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, told Reuters news agency on Friday that a guilty plea to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.
He was among the participants, for instance, in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians and Trump's oldest son and son-in-law that was arranged for the campaign to receive derogatory information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Manafort had other charges dropped but he could still go to prison, marking a steep fall from grace for a multi-millionaire who was often at Trump's side as the Republican candidate took USA politics by storm in 2016.
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Prosecutors say that Manafort directed a large-scale lobbying operation in the United States for Ukrainian interests without registering with the Justice Department as required by the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.
Another danger for Trump is that the Manafort deal will prompt others to sing to Mueller.
"There's no limit on what they can request", the former DOJ attorney said.
Manafort's case marked the first indictment in Mueller's investigation.
In addition to the criminal charges, prosecutors said in a court filing that Manafort could be forced to forfeit assets that would deal him a significant financial blow: four houses he owns, including an expansive retreat in the Hamptons, plus four bank accounts and the proceeds of a life insurance policy.
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Jackson read Manafort's plea agreement.
On Friday (Saturday NZT), prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court that Manafort had struck a "cooperation agreement" and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work.
"But here", she said, "there's none".
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the Manafort case was unrelated to Trump. "This is an existential threat to the Presidency", tweeted Mitchell Epner, a former assistant USA attorney.
"The whole point [of declining to enter into a plea agreement and going to trial], it seemed that he was playing out the string for a pardon". "People aren't going to say they will run against Trump unless they have the infrastructure but I've been trying to persuade people that it may not be that hard", he added.
In August, Manafort's attorneys filed a motion requesting the trial be moved from Washington to Roanoke, Virginia. Likely, there will be a short period of time where Trump unleashes a bonanza of ludicrous tweets, followed by a peculiar silence-then, suddenly, he will wave goodbye from the tarmac, KFC bucket in hand, and get on a helicopter à la Nixon. "From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself". Earlier this year, Manafort criticized his former business associate Rick Gates for cooperating with investigators, saying, "I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence".
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Manafort's defenders have long insisted that he would not cooperate with Mueller, and did not know any incriminating information against the president.