Report: Manafort Striking Plea Deal to Avoid Second Trial in D.C.
Less than a month after being found guilty on eight felony counts of financial crimes in the Eastern District of Virginia, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is reportedly at the point of making a deal with the special counsel's office to avoid a second trial on lobbying violations in D.C.
Manafort was found guilty in Alexandria, Va., on five tax fraud charges, one count of hiding foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud. He faces up to 80 years in prison on those charges.
Questioning of potential jurors has started in the D.C. Circuit, where Manafort faces his next trial on seven counts of conspiracy, witness tampering and lobbying violations in respect to working on behalf of a foreign government. Opening statements are scheduled for Sept. 24, with the trial expected to last about three weeks.
ABC News reports that a plea deal could be announced in court Friday, with a tentative agreement reached.
Sources told the network that it was unclear whether Manafort has agreed to cooperative with investigators or is taking a guilty plea without promising anything to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Talks between Manafort's attorneys and the special counsel's office stretched past four hours today, said ABC, who spotted the legal team arriving at the building housing Mueller's office.
Manafort has not yet been sentenced in the Alexandria case, but has remained in jail because of the witness tampering allegations added to his original charges in D.C.
Trump told Fox News after the Alexandria convictions that "one of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial" instead of turning state's evidence.
"This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I've been watching flippers. Everything's wonderful, and then they get 10 years in jail, and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed. It's not fair, because if somebody's going to give -- spend five years, like Michael Cohen, or 10 years or 15 years in jail because of a taxicab industry, or because he defrauded some bank -- the last two were the tiny ones. You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly," Trump said.
"But if somebody defrauded a bank and he's going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail, but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you'll go down to two years or three years -- which is the deal he made -- in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that," the president added. "And I've seen it many times. I've had many friends involved in this stuff. It's called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal."