Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second Manafort trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering. The second count, for conspiracy to obstruct justice, concerns attempts to tamper with witnesses related to Manafort's foreign lobbying. Usually it helps you get a pardon down the road.
All the while, the investigation has been under a barrage of attacks by Trump, who has openly mulled shutting it down, called it a "rigged witch hunt" and an "illegal scam" and accused Mueller of political bias and leading a team of "angry Democrats". As CNN noted, the "cooperation agreement" means that other charges would be dropped as long as Manafort provided "successful cooperation".
According to the presiding judge, such co-operation includes sitting for interviews and briefings with Robert Mueller's team, handing over any relevant documents, and testifying before any future grand juries or, if necessary, criminal trials.
The plea, and cooperation, were an abrupt change for Manafort, who was convicted last month in the Virginia federal court on bank and tax fraud charges.
"He's accepted responsibility", said Manafort defence lawyer Kevin Downing after Thursday's court appearance. If they were to defend Manafort's integrity as someone now willing to tell the truth, what would happen if Manafort were to implicate Trump in a crime? Trump's former fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted financial crimes and is helping federal prosecutors in NY.
Manafort had denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty.
In August, Manafort's attorneys filed a motion requesting the trial be moved from Washington to Roanoke, Virginia.
In addition to the criminal charges, prosecutors said in a court filing that Manafort could be forced to forfeit assets that would deal him a significant financial blow: four houses he owns, including an expansive retreat in the Hamptons, plus four bank accounts and the proceeds of a life insurance policy.
In the Washington case, prosecutors were set to lay out in great detail Manafort's political consulting and lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Russian Party of Regions.
The latter charge is just a fancy way of saying he got caught moving money around and doing shady stuff for oligarchs-you know, normal Washington D.C. stuff (the worst thing to ever happen to Manafort was winning an election, if we had President Hillary Clinton right now, Manafort would still be peddling the influence of foreign nations in our nation's capital). The president agreed to wait at least until the investigation concludes, Giuliani has said.
Neither of the cases against Manafort relates to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the central issue in the special counsel's investigation.
Later in 2016, Manafort oversaw the Republican National Convention that nominated Trump for the presidency. Both charges are related to his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.