Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has had himself a year, but his legal troubles could get even worse even though he has reached a high-profile plea agreement with the special counsel.
Fireworks went off time and again during Manafort’s contentious trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, ultimately resulting in his conviction on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts. This was immediately to be followed by a second trial in Washington, D.C. that would have put Manafort’s lobbying work in Ukraine under the microscope. Manafort and his legal team, however, cut a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and that second trial never happened.
Mueller agreed to drop criminal charges provided that Manafort cooperated fully with the special counsel’s demands (which were specified at length), and provided that he plead guilty to a count of conspiracy against the United States and a count of conspiracy to obstruct justice for witness tampering.
The most relevant piece of that agreement for the purposes of this topic can be found under the section titled “Additional charges.” It states:
In consideration of your client’s guilty plea to the above offenses, and upon the completion of cooperation as described herein and fulfillment of all the other obligations herein, no additional criminal charges will be brought against the defendant for his heretofore disclosed participation in criminal activity, including money laundering, false statements, personal and corporate tax and FBAR offenses, bank fraud, Foreign Agents Registration Act violations for his work in Ukraine, and obstruction of justice. In addition, subject to the terms of this Agreement, at the time of sentence or at the completion of his successful cooperation, whichever is later, the Government will move to dismiss the remaining counts of the Indictment in this matter and in the Eastern District of Virginia and your client waives venue as to such charges in the event he breaches this Agreement. Your client also waives all rights under the Speedy Trial act as to any outstanding charges.
It’s important to emphasize that this covers “heretofore disclosed participation in criminal activity” — that is, crimes disclosed in advance of the sealing of this deal. As a result, it’s clear that Manafort is certainly not out of the woods when it comes to additional trouble, especially if other Americans end up getting slapped with charges.
Former federal prosecutor and current legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC Daniel S. Goldman told Law&Crime that the plea agreement covers Manafort for previous charges, but not new ones.
“He will have to admit to additional criminal conduct as part of his cooperation process and that could include additional charges,” Goldman said.
What could those additional charges be? It’s currently being reported, for example, that as part of Manafort’s cooperation he has been asked about long-time lobbying associate Roger Stone. Mueller is reportedly looking to know what Stone and Stone’s associates knew in advance of the 2016 cyber-attack of the DNC and the publishing of emails by WikiLeaks.
Stone distanced himself from this to say that he is “highly confident Mr. Manafort is aware of no wrongdoing on my part during the 2016 campaign, or at any other time, and therefore there is no wrongdoing to know about.”
“Narratives to the contrary by some in the media are false and defamatory,” Stone added. If Mueller were to, say, bring a conspiracy charge against someone like Stone, or another American, Manafort could also be on the hook for it down the line, according to Goldman.
“I think if any American gets charged with conspiracy, then Manafort would be too (and would likely plead guilty to it), because he was at the nexus of the campaign and Russian connections,” he said. “All roads seem to go through Manafort, and his cooperation will likely be an important piece of evidence in a case against anyone else.”
[Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]