The former chairman of President Trump's campaign has pleaded guilty to two federal crimes and is reportedly cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The White House says this doesn't have anything to do with the president whatsoever.
Paul Manafort, who worked on the Trump campaign from March to August 2016, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, The Washington Post reports. He is accused of avoiding $15 million in taxes by storing his money in offshore accounts, as well as witness-tampering and working as an unregistered lobbyist on behalf of Ukraine before his time with the Trump campaign.
In a statement Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the Manafort plea "had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated." Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also weighed in with the same basic message, telling reporters that Friday's events are unrelated to Trump. Giuliani added that "the president did nothing wrong."
Manafort reportedly plans to cooperate with Mueller's investigation, giving interviews and handing over documents, per NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell, which is significant considering he was a key part of the Trump campaign for about five months. The Trump team has sought to downplay Manafort's influence on the campaign ever since his legal troubles began to mount, but in August 2016, Trump confidant Newt Gingrich told Fox News that "nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help get this [Trump] campaign to where it is right now." Brendan Morrow