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What the Manafort Plea Deal Means to the Mueller Investigation

It's likely that Paul Manafort's plea deal means that he has substantial information that will help Robert Mueller's investigation. Before accepting a plea agreement prosecutors typically receive a "proffer," a statement by defense lawyers summarizing what their client can provide prosecutors in exchange for their cooperation. Prosecutors in Manafort’s case have not been specific about what he’s agreed to tell them, but we know Manafort gave the special counsel a proffer and it was sufficient to buy him out of years of jail time.

It's difficult to determine exactly what Manafort might know, but there will be a lot of fertile ground for Mueller to cover with Donald Trump's former campaign chairman. Clearly Manafort has firsthand knowledge of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower which he attended along with a Russian lawyer, Donald Trump Jr., and the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner. British spy Christopher Steele mentions him several times in his "dossier" as a central player in the conspiracy with Russia, and Manafort is a longtime business partner of Roger Stone who claimed to be in contact with WikiLeaks which dumped anti-Clinton emails. Manafort also had close ties to Moscow.

New York Times: "Of all Mr. Trump’s campaign advisers, Mr. Manafort arguably had the deepest ties to Russian operatives and oligarchs. He worked for years in Ukraine with Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a Russian citizen who prosecutors have said had ties to a Russian intelligence service that continued into 2016."

"He also had a business relationship with Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. At one point, Mr. Deripaska lent Mr. Manafort $10 million that prosecutors suggested was never repaid."

For Mueller, Manafort might be the final piece in the puzzle of figuring out exactly how far the Trump campaign went in its efforts to obtain damaging information on Hillary Clinton. But Mueller has been remarkably good at not tipping his hand. Manafort joins Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn who have already turned, and we still don’t know what the special prosecutor learned from them.

Photo credit: ABC News

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