US President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was set to plead guilty to two criminal counts as part of a deal with prosecutors yesterday, court documents showed in what could be a blow to Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian election meddling.
It was not immediately clear whether the deal would require Manafort, 69, to cooperate with Mueller's probe into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow.
Details of the deal were likely to emerge in a plea agreement hearing scheduled for 11:00am in federal court. Manafort would become the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation, which has cast a shadow over Trump's presidency.
If Manafort decides to cooperate with Mueller's probe, that would deal a setback to Trump ahead of congressional polls on Nov 6.
Another approach for Manafort would be to plead guilty without cooperating and perhaps later receive a presidential pardon. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort, but the president has not publicly ruled it out.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russia probe, told Reuters that a guilty plea would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.
Manafort made millions of dollars working for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians before taking an unpaid position with Trump's campaign for five months. He led the campaign in mid-2016 when Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee at the party convention.