This post has been updated.
The first count is for conspiring with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political operative, to commit money laundering, failing to file as a foreign agent (of the Russian-backed Ukrainian president and his party) and lying to the Justice Department. This includes laundering more than $12 million obtained from his overseas work. During the time he ran the Trump campaign.
If Manafort pleads to this charge, as expected, he might be asked more detailed questions and might bring to light new information not in the charging document, just as Michael Cohen did when he pleaded guilty and declared under oath that Trump had directed him to violate campaign finance laws to hide hush money to alleged paramours.
We don’t know a great deal:
What cooperation will Manafort provide to Mueller?If he does not cooperate, can he be called as an uncooperative witness and compelled to give further testimony?Why were some charges eliminated in the reported deal? Will they be fodder for a state prosecutor if Trump tries to pardon Manafort?Did anything Manafort do for his Ukrainian bosses intersect with anything he did for Trump (e.g., changing the party platform in a way that benefited Russia)?To what degree, if any, was Trump or any family member aware of Manafort’s activities?
The benefit of a plea to Trump and the Republicans is that a trial filled with Russia references won’t be taking place weeks before the midterms. However, that is a short-term benefit that might be irrelevant at this point.
The huge downside is that a senior, the most senior, campaign adviser for a time is pleading to crimes directly tied to Russian interests while he was running the campaign. “Manafort is effectively admitting to being an instrument of the Kremlin — something that didn’t stop when he was in charge of the Trump campaign,” says Max Bergmann, who heads the Moscow Project at the Center for American Progress. “This is what collusion looks like.”
And once again, it reveals that the president’s assurance that no one from the campaign had Russian contacts was flat-out false.