Manafort Is Said to Near Plea Deal With Prosecutors

WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman and one of Washington’s most prominent lobbyists, is close to a plea deal with federal prosecutors to avoid a trial scheduled for next week on charges stemming from work he did for pro-Russia political forces in Ukraine, people familiar with the case said on Thursday.

Mr. Manafort has already been convicted on related bank and tax fraud charges arising from an investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The negotiations over a plea deal relate to a separate set of seven charges encompassing conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering, false statements and violations of a lobbying disclosure law.

It was not clear which charges Mr. Manafort might plead guilty to or whether he would cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s team in its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion with the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump. The developments in plea negotiations were first reported by ABC News.

Mr. Manafort’s trial on the second set of charges is scheduled to get underway on Monday in United States District Court in Washington. A pretrial hearing, which had been postponed this week, is scheduled for Friday.

A jury in Northern Virginia convicted Mr. Manafort last month of eight counts of financial fraud based on much of the same evidence that prosecutors planned to present in the second trial. He would also probably face a tougher jury pool in politically liberal Washington than he did in the first trial, held in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

Any plea by Mr. Manafort would be another unsettling development for a president who seems increasingly isolated and distrustful of members of his own circle. For months, Mr. Trump has praised Mr. Manafort for confronting Mr. Mueller instead of trying to negotiate a plea deal.

So far, four former Trump aides have pleaded guilty to charges related to the special counsel investigation: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer; Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser; Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman; and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser.

A federal judge last Friday ordered Mr. Papadopoulos, the only one to be sentenced, to spend 14 days in prison for lying to F.B.I. agents about his contacts with Russian government intermediaries. Mr. Trump mocked that outcome, suggesting that each day his former aide would spend in prison equaled $2 million in the special counsel’s budget, even though Mr. Mueller’s team has secured five other guilty pleas or convictions.

The president railed against plea deals in general after Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last month to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges, implicating Mr. Trump in the cover-up of a potential sex scandal during the 2016 presidential race. Mr. Trump said that trading information on someone else for lesser charges or a lighter sentence “almost ought to be outlawed.”

Mr. Manafort, who has repeatedly insisted that he would not cooperate with the special counsel, has been reassessing his legal risks after last month’s trial. He was found guilty of eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account, crimes that legal experts predicted were likely to result in a prison term of six to 12 years.

Prosecutors have been approaching the second trial much like the first: with a wealth of documentary evidence and a range of witnesses who worked with Mr. Manafort over the years. In pretrial filings, they listed 2,127 potential exhibits.

The defense was hoping to show that the special counsel had targeted Mr. Manafort because he had overseen Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. But Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court for the District of Columbia had already signaled that the argument was out of bounds.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly come to Mr. Manafort’s defense. “Paul Manafort is a good man,” he said after the Virginia jury returned its verdict. “It doesn’t involve me but it’s a very sad thing.” In private discussions with his lawyers, Mr. Trump has raised the option of pardoning Mr. Manafort.

It was unclear whether that possibility has figured in Mr. Manafort’s thinking. If he pleads guilty, his lawyers could argue that he deserves a lighter sentence because he has accepted responsibility for his crimes.

By Thursday evening, the court hearing set for Friday was rescheduled for later in the morning, possibly to give the lawyers more time to complete an agreement.

Whether Mr. Manafort would cooperate has been an issue during his plea negotiations, according to one person familiar with the discussions. He worked for the Trump campaign for five months in 2016 and arguably had deeper contacts with pro-Russian oligarchs and intermediaries than any other campaign adviser did.

Prosecutors have previously said one of Mr. Manafort’s close associates in Ukraine had contacts with a Russian intelligence agency. A Russian oligarch closely tied to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia also lent Mr. Manafort $10 million that prosecutors have suggested was never repaid.

Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Days Before His Trial, Manafort May Be Near Agreement for a Plea. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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