President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is reportedly in talks with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on an agreement to plead guilty to some of the charges against him. ABC News reported on Thursday evening that the two sides have reached a “tentative deal,” although the precise contours of the detail were not described. CNN confirmed the report shortly thereafter.
The biggest question is whether the deal requires Manafort to cooperate with Mueller in other cases. If so, that could expose the president to significant legal peril. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, struck a deal with the special counsel’s office in December that imposed such a requirement, and his cooperation appears to be ongoing. Other Trump associates haven’t been required to cooperate, however. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, did not make a similar pledge to federal prosecutors in New York City when he pleaded guilty to eight charges last month.
Another question is whether the plea deal only applies to the charges at issue in his D.C. trial, which is set to begin later this month, or also includes his convictions from last month’s trial in Virginia. A federal jury in Alexandria found Manafort on eight of the 18 counts against him last month, capping his two-year fall from power. Those convictions could net the 69-year-old political consultant a hefty prison sentence.
Complicating matters for Mueller is Trump himself. After Manafort’s conviction last month, the president excoriated Cohen for “flipping,” a practice that Trump off-handedly suggested should be illegal, while praising Manafort for his fortitude and refusal to cooperate. In practical terms, the president and his legal team have all but promised that Manafort will be pardoned at the end of Mueller’s investigation—as long as he doesn’t cooperate with it, of course.