Trump questioned the legitimacy of the "Russian investigation"

Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a truck to move people rescued from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence in James City NC on Sept. 14 2018

President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort entered a guilty plea Friday to two criminal charges under terms of a plea deal that includes his cooperation as a potential witness for special counsel Mueller.

The deal gives special counsel Robert Mueller a key cooperator who led the Trump election effort for a crucial stretch during the 2016 United States presidential campaign.

Manafort's flip is - by far - the most ominous to date for President Donald Trump who, less than a month ago, was extolling his former election campaign chair as a "brave man" with a "wonderful family", who, despite intense pressure, "refused to break" and join the "witch hunt" into whether Trump colluded with the Kremlin to rig the 2016 election.

Under the terms of the deal, Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to just two counts, though the crimes he admitted largely cover the same conduct alleged in an indictment past year.

This courtroom sketch depicts former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, centre, and his defence lawyer Richard Westling, left, before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, seated upper right, at federal court in Washington, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, as prosecutors Andrew Weissmann, bottom centre, and Greg Andres watch. Prosecutors have said Kilimnik had active ties to a Russian intelligence service - including during 2016, when he was in contact with both Manafort and Gates. Asked last week if he was anxious about going to prison, the president's loyal son said: "I'm not because I know what I did, and I'm not anxious about any of that". All of these charges predate the time Paul spent with the president.

It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort possesses information that would implicate the president or others close to the president in wrongdoing.

Trump last month praised Manafort as "a courageous man" for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors while blasting the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen for doing so.

Under the terms of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the bulk of the charges against Manafort, filing new paperwork that includes just two counts that resemble in many ways the original allegations made in an indictment previous year.

"There's potentially a range of other illegal conduct that Manafort could shed light on, in much the way Michael Cohen did", Schiff told me.

Even if Manafort has helped Trump and Republicans, in one sense, by vitiating a high-profile trial this fall, he may hurt them politically - or, ultimately, legally - by cooperating with the Justice Department.

Rather, they focused on Manafort's personal money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent for work he did on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine, and obstructing justice with Konstantin Kilimnik, whom prosecutors have linked to Russian intelligence.

Manafort tried to pass that message to Deripaska through Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian citizen whose relationship with Manafort has figured repeatedly in court filings by Mueller's team.

"They may think they know what Manafort has to say because he was part of that joint defense agreement, but they have to know that he may not have told them the full truth", Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on NBC's "Meet the Press". Ted Cruz (R-Texas) from "stealing the nomination" at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

"I have someone pushing it on the NY Post".

On Twitter on August 22, Trump wrote: "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to "break" - make up stories in order to get a 'deal".

It was not immediately clear what Manafort's cooperation with the special counsel will provide to the Russian Federation investigation.

Those counts included bank fraud, tax evasion and bank fraud conspiracy.

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