After more than four decades of lobbying on behalf of Republican politicians, foreign dictators, and oligarchs, Paul Manafort is flipping on his last client: President Donald Trump.
The president’s former campaign chairman has agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the investigation of a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow, prosecutors said in court on Friday, and has already proffered information to the Justice Department. Manafort also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, avoiding the spectacle of a second trial in Washington, D.C.
Legal experts characterized Manafort’s move as a significant win for Mueller—and a big setback for Trump. “Manafort’s cooperation is a tremendous achievement for the Mueller investigation—maybe the single biggest development yet,” said Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. “Manafort provides Mueller with an insider to the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and likely many other key moments.”
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said on Friday that Manafort’s cooperation agreement includes interviews and briefings he’ll give to the special counsel’s office; he’ll also turn over documents and testify in other proceedings, and has waived his right to have an attorney present during his interviews with the special counsel, prosecutors said. “Tough day for Mr. Manafort,” Kevin Downing, Manafort’s attorney, said outside the D.C. courthouse on Friday. “But he’s accepted responsibility … He wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life.”