WASHINGTON – Paul Manafort, 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.
Manafort has already been convicted on related bank and tax fraud charges arising from an investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. The negotiations over a plea deal relate to a separate set of seven charges encompassing conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering, false statements and violations of a lobbying disclosure law.
It was not clear which charges Manafort might plead guilty to or whether he would cooperate with Mueller's team in its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion with the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice by Trump.
Manafort's trial on the second set of charges is scheduled to begin in U.S. District Court in Washington on Monday. A pretrial hearing, postponed this week, is scheduled for Friday.
A jury in Northern Virginia convicted Manafort last month of eight counts of financial fraud based on much of the same evidence that prosecutors planned to present in the second trial.
He would also likely face a tougher jury pool in politically liberal Washington than he did in the first trial, held in federal court in Alexandria, Va.
Any plea by Manafort would be another unsettling development for a president who seems increasingly isolated and distrustful of members of his own circle.
For months, Trump has praised Manafort for confronting Mueller instead of trying to negotiate a plea deal.
Four former Trump aides have pleaded guilty to charges related to the special counsel investigation: Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer; Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman; and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser.
Only Papadopoulos has been sentenced; a judge last Friday ordered him to spend 14 days in prison for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian government intermediaries.