Paul Manafort to plead guilty to two charges

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse for a hearing

Paul Manafort has made a decision to plead guilty to charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and avoid a second criminal trial, but it's unclear whether he will cooperate with Mueller's inquiry into Russian election interference.

It is not clear whether any agreement with prosecutors would require him to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

The 69-year-old political consultant was convicted last month in Alexandria, Virginia federal court on charges of bank and tax fraud.

Manafort's second trial would have been related to his Ukrainian political consulting work, including failing to register as a foreign agent.

Manafort is expected to appear in a USA district courtroom in Washington, D.C., later Friday morning.

In-person jury selection for his Washington trial was set to start Monday, with opening statements scheduled for September 24 before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

If Manafort were to cooperate with Mueller, that could provide investigators new evidence or leads to chase; a guilty plea, however, would prevent weeks worth of headlines about the trial in the month before congressional elections.

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President Donald Trump with Paul Manafort (far right) and Rick Gates (centre).

Manafort had the option of rolling all the charges he faced into one trial, but chose not to. "MANAFORT generated more than 60 million dollars in income as a result of his Ukraine work". Five other charges were dropped in the new court filing.

The court filing, according to the special counsel's office, "alleges a conspiracy against the United States (money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice) and a conspiracy to obstruct justice (witness tampering)".

The charges do not relate to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Law enforcement officials have come to suspect that Manafort hopes he will be pardoned by the president, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue. The president has signaled that he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause, and in comments to Politico, his attorney-spokesman Rudy Giuliani said a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

The former Trump aide is scheduled to appear at a hearing for the trial at 11:00 a.m. on Friday.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. And during his Virginia trial in August, Manafort's lawyers spent considerable time painting Gates as a liar, embezzler, philanderer and turncoat who would say anything to get a lighter prison sentence.

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