Paul Manafort's plea deal may affect Vice President Mike Pence because of the former campaign chairman's role in making him Donald Trump's running mate. Manafort faces up to a decade in prison after the Virginia jury verdict, and a conviction in Washington could have increased his prison time.
He smiled broadly as he entered the courtroom Friday but gave terse and barely audible answers during questioning from the judge.
Manafort, however, continues to hold a literal "Trump card", which he may elect to play only at the conclusion of court proceedings in his case.
Given his direct involvement in the Trump campaign, including episodes being scrutinized by Mueller, Manafort could be positioned to provide key insight for investigators working to establish whether the campaign co-ordinated with Russian Federation.
Trump minimized Manafort's involvement in his campaign after a security briefing in August 2016, amid reports of a $12.7million "off the books" payment to Manafort from the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions political party.
Schiff noted that Mueller would want to know what Manafort can tell him about the "background to the Trump Tower meeting, what took place at the Trump Tower meeting, and what took place after the Trump Tower meeting".
He was also a close business associate of a man who USA intelligence believes has ties to Russian intelligence.
Later in 2016, Manafort oversaw the Republican National Convention that nominated Trump for the presidency. "It is totally unrelated".
On Friday (Saturday NZT), prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court that Manafort had struck a "cooperation agreement" and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work. "In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, MANAFORT, with the assistance of Gates and Kilimnik, laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts".
Manafort used one of his offshore accounts to funnel $4 million to pay the law firm-a fact he didn't disclose to the public, the information said. The president has signalled that he's sympathetic to Manafort's cause.
The scope of co-operative plea deals are usually vague, and this one is no different.
Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second Manafort trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the USA, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.
The plea agreement says Manafort agrees to cooperate in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant. Places like Virginia and NY, both of which have Democratic attorneys general, could prosecute Manafort on state tax violations, for instance. A mistrial was declared on the remaining 10 charges after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.
Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.
That case alleged that Manafort directed a large-scale USA lobbying operation for Ukrainian interests but never registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent despite being required to do so under the law, and that he concealed millions of dollars in income for the consulting work from the IRS.
At the end of the hour-long hearing, Manafort responded to a statement of offense with "I plead guilty".
If he cooperates, Mueller could be a significant witness for prosecutors in the case.