Trump ex-campaign chief Manafort 'strikes plea deal'

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U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will plead guilty to two criminal counts as part of a deal with prosecutors on Friday, court documents showed in what could be a blow to Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-running probe of Russian election meddling.

The charges in his second trial were set to include money laundering, conspiring to defraud the USA, witness tampering and failing to register as a foreign agent.

Paul Manafort will plead guilty to avoid a second trial.

People familiar with the plea discussions have previously said that Manafort has no intention of cooperating with Mueller, so it's possible any prospective agreement could allow him to admit guilt without providing information to investigators.

Most of the charges Mueller brought against him stemmed from that pre-2016 Ukraine work, however some of the bank fraud allegations in Virginia overlapped with Manafort's time on the campaign and after.

The deal is the culmination of a federal investigation that has kept Manafort's name in the headlines for more than a year, from summer 2017, when the FBI raided his residence in Virginia, through last October, when the charges first dropped, and into February, when his former business deputy and co-defendant Rick Gates reached his own plea deal with Mueller.

Details of the deal were likely to emerge in a plea agreement hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) in the federal court.

Manafort was facing a second trial set to begin on Monday in Washington on charges related to Ukrainian political consulting work.

According to the court documents cited by United States media, Manafort will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. The president has previously signaled he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause, and his attorney Rudy Giuliani told Politico a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon. Manafort's decision could be mixed news for Trump, who tapped the consultant to serve as his campaign chairman in June 2016 as he was securing the GOP presidential nomination. Gates may have been a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well. He declined further comment until after the hearing.

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