Manafort pleads guilty, will cooperate with special counsel

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This courtroom sketch depicts former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, center, and his defense lawyer Richard Westling, left, before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, seated upper right, at federal court in Washington, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, as prosecutors Andrew Weissmann, bottom center, and Greg Andres watch. Manafort has pleaded guilty to two federal charges as part of a cooperation deal with prosecutors. The deal requires him to cooperate “fully and truthfully” with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The charges against Manafort are related to his Ukrainian consulting work, not Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

WASHINGTON | Paul Manafort, who served as President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, will cooperate with the special counsel’s Russia investigation as he pleaded guilty to federal charges Friday, avoiding a second trial that could have exposed him to even greater punishment.

Manafort’s decision to plea provides special counsel Robert Mueller with a vital cooperator who helped lead the Trump election effort during the 2016 presidential campaign. The result also enables the probe to extend far beyond the November congressional elections.

It has not yet been revealed what information Manafort plans to provide to investigators. However, the plea deal still makes Manafort the latest of Trump’s associates to admit guilt and to cooperate with investigators.

Over the previous year, Mueller has garnered pleas from a former national security adviser who lied to the FBI about discussing sanctions with a Russian ambassador, a campaign aide who broached the idea of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin; and another aide who was indicted alongside Manafort but ultimately turned on him. The president’s former personal lawyer has separately pleaded guilty in New York.