By Prarthana Mitra
In a sensational revelation to the impeachment turmoil brewing on the White House horizon, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday pled guilty to a slew of conspiracy, tax and bank frauds on reduced charges, after striking an open-ended plea deal with the federal court in Washington.
According to the arrangement, he has reportedly agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller III who is currently investigating the US president’s links to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
What awaits him now?
In exchange for the surrender, Manafort, 69 will be charged for only two of the eight felony counts he was indicted with at a Virginia court, and now faces a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars.
He has also surrendered his real estate assets under the condition to join special counsel Mueller’s star witnesses Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos in testifying “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” against Trump and about “any and all matters” the government wants to ask about.
Why has been convicted?
Manafort whose crimes extend as far back as to his career as a political consultant in Ukraine, can now shape the final stages of the Russia inquiry as he has been at the centre of the presidential campaign. His current stance directly contradicts Trump’s glowing commendation of him, when he was first convicted just weeks ago, for standing up for the president and refusing to flip like Cohen.
According to media reports, he was also seriously contemplating a pardon for Manafort, and was in talks with his personal lawyer Rudolf Guiliani regarding the same. Guiliani told the media on Friday, “The president did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”
How influential can he be to the Russia investigation?
Although it is not clear what fruits his testimony will bear for the case Mueller is chalking up under great secrecy, but Manafort can certainly shed light on key moments of the campaign, like the June 2016 meeting between Kremlin officials and Republicans that he was a part of, and on the role of several senior officials in the interference.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius