Paul Manafort agrees to plea deal with Mueller

REPORT: Manafort Wants

WASHINGTON-Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman and one of Washington's most prominent lobbyists, is close to a plea deal with federal prosecutors to avoid a trial scheduled for next week on charges stemming from work he did for pro-Russia political forces in Ukraine, people familiar with the case said Thursday.

The tentative plea deal reportedly came after Manafort was found guilty last month by a federal jury sitting in northern Virginia on eight counts of tax and bank fraud charges, but ahead of Manafort's upcoming trial on additional federal charges in the nation's capital.

"Manafort and his most senior defense attorneys spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of special prosecutors who are involved in the ongoing investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation", the report says.

Manafort was at a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 where Russians were offering "dirt" on election opponent Hillary Clinton.

He was previously reported to be resisting Mueller's demands for information relating to Trump in return for a deal.

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Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing and Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the ABC News report. His onetime business partner and protege, Rick Gates, took such a deal and appeared as the government's star witness against Manafort in his Virginia trial last month.

What isn't clear is whether Manafort might accept a deal in which prosecutors show leniency in exchange for cooperation.

Manafort's attorneys had argued that the trial should be moved to Roanoke, Virginia, because the intensity of publicity in Washington made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

Manafort's second trial is expected to delve deeper into Manafort's Russian connections including to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller's team has linked to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial. Trump has not said whether or not he would pardon Manafort, but he has not publicly ruled it out.

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