Trump's ex-campaign chief Paul Manafort pleads guilty to 'conspiracy against US'; to cooperate in Russia probe

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for arraignment on a third superseding indictment against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of witness tampering, at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S. June 15, 2018. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team Washington, DC, USA Sep 14, 2018, 09.45 PM (IST)

In a major blow to president Trump, Paul Manafort the US president's former election campaign chief pleaded guilty to "conspiracy against the United States" and obstruction of justice and pledged to cooperate in the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's against Trump's possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 elections.

Also Read: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates charged in Russia probe no collusion, tweets Trump

Manafort agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and another count of obstruction of justice.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman said that Manafort's guilty plea was "totally unrelated" to President Trump.

"It’s not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty. Usually, it helps you get a pardon down the road. It shows you’ve admitted your guilt," Rudy Giuliani, representing Trump in the Russia probe had said earlier.

Trump had praised Manafort for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

On Twitter, Trump said: "Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break' - make up stories in order to get a 'deal. Such respect for a brave man!"

 Manafort faced seven criminal counts in the new trial, including allegations of money laundering, obstruction of justice and failing to register as a foreign agent for his work on behalf of pro-Russian politicians from Ukraine.

Manafort was earlier convicted on eight counts of financial wrongdoing which included two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Trump had sought to distance himself from the verdict back then declaring that it had nothing to do with the Russia collusion. "Paul Manafort is a good man. ... It doesn't involve me, but I still feel - you know, it's a very sad thing that happened," Trump said, adding,"This started as Russian collusion this has absolutely nothing to do - this is a witch hunt and it's a disgrace."

Prosecutors accused Manafort of hiding from US tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle and then lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian income dried up.