Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, pleaded guilty Friday and said he will cooperate with prosecutors - in a plea deal in a money-laundering and foreign lobbying case. The result also ensures the investigation will extend far beyond the November congressional elections despite entreaties from the president's lawyers that Mueller bring his probe to a close.
Paul Manafort, 69, was due to face trial in Washington this month on seven federal charges, including tax fraud, money laundering and conspiracy crimes, but will now face only two.
"Between at least 2006 and 2015, MANAFORT conspired with Richard W. Gates (Gates), Konstantin Kilimnik (Kilimnik), and others to act, and acted, as unregistered agents of a foreign government and political party", the criminal information reads. The meeting was described as part of the Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign. The White House says this doesn't have anything to do with the president whatsoever.
The White House says Manafort's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller is "totally unrelated" to President Donald Trump. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.
Paul Manafort (centre) is heckled as he walks into court. But Manafort's guilty plea - and, one could argue, other developments like it - "underscores the seriousness of this investigation", said Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. He will also forfeit many of his assets as part of the deal; worth about $46 million, they would single-handedly cover the cost of the Mueller investigation.
That posture drew plaudits from Trump, who praised his former campaign chairman for his unwillingness to cooperate with the special counsel.
Schiff noted that Mueller would want to know what Manafort can tell him about the "background to the Trump Tower meeting, what took place at the Trump Tower meeting, and what took place after the Trump Tower meeting".
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in court Friday that Manafort must participate in interviews and debriefings, provide documents and testify in future cases.
Then in February, prosecutors filed new mortgage and tax fraud charges against him weeks after they discovered he was offering to secure his bail with homes tied up in his alleged mortgage fraud.
Former federal prosecutor Harry Sandick said it was too soon to say how much Manafort's cooperation could affect the investigation into possible collusion between Trump's campaign and the Russians.
Friday's move gives Mueller another successful conviction while allowing Manafort to avoid facing another costly public trial. Earlier this year, Manafort criticized his former business associate Rick Gates for cooperating with investigators, saying, "I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence".
Moscow rejects the conclusions of USA intelligence agencies that it interfered in the American democratic process and Trump denies campaign collusion.
Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the president did nothing wrong.
Trump minimized Manafort's involvement in his campaign after a security briefing in August 2016, amid reports of a $12.7million "off the books" payment to Manafort from the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions political party. "Nothing to do with Russian Federation collusion".
Later in 2016, Manafort oversaw the Republican National Convention that nominated Trump for the presidency.
In recent days, as the Manafort plea talks were ongoing, the President's legal team expressed confidence that if Manafort signed a cooperation agreement it wouldn't have anything to do with the President, according to a source briefed on their thinking.