A plea agreement by former Trump campaign president Paul Manafort to cooperate with US prosecutors in their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election suggests that it could shed light on unanswered questions about the campaign, they said. legal experts.
Manafort's agreement with Special Advisor Robert Mueller to cooperate "fully, truthfully, completely and frankly" could test the refusal of US President Donald Trump to collude campaigns with Russia, said lawyers who did not participate in the case.
Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at George Washington University, said the agreement, which limits a sentence to 10 years that could have been much longer, was a "pretty good deal" that suggested that the team Mueller valued Manafort's cooperation.
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who represents Trump in the investigation into Russia, told Reuters on Friday that Manafort "does not know anything harmful to the president and the statement is the best proof of that."
The White House said in a statement that the agreement "has absolutely nothing to do" with the president or his 2016 campaign.
Manafort attended a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between Russian representatives and senior campaign officials, including Trump's son and son-in-law, who were hoping to receive derogatory information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Any light that Manafort could throw on that meeting and other episodes could deepen Mueller's investigation, according to legal experts, which would increase the pressure on Trump. The president and his allies have repeatedly called for the investigation to be concluded and he describes the investigation as a "witch hunt."
Donald Trump Jr., who organized the meeting with the Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin Natalia Veselnitskaya and others, initially said it was mainly to discuss a program on adoptions of Russian children. Since then, the president has acknowledged that the meeting was created to uncover damaging information about Clinton, but that it was "totally legal and done all the time in politics."
Moscow rejects the findings of US intelligence agencies that interfered in the elections by hacking the Democratic Party's computer networks and spreading misinformation on social networks.
Some legal experts said that if Trump and his advisers knowingly asked for help from Russia, they could have violated campaign finance laws and a statute that penalizes conspiracies to harm the functioning of the US government. UU
Mueller's investigators may also be looking for Manafort to find out if the Trump team offered something to the Russians in return for electoral aid, said Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor.
The Manafort deal could also prompt other subjects of Mueller's investigation to cooperate, causing "the proverbial snowball to roll downhill," Waxman said.
Other issues on which Manafort could be questioned are his long-standing commercial and personal ties with Trump's ally, Roger Stone. Stone's communications have been a subject of Mueller's research, according to sources familiar with interviews with other Stone associates.
Manafort oversaw the 2016 Republican National Convention in which the party platform in Ukraine was modified in a way that was more in line with Russian interests. Manafort represented pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine before he went through the Trump campaign.
The structure of Manafort's guilty plea limits the effectiveness of any Trump pardon, said Jed Shugerman, a law professor at Fordham University. Manafort admitted carrying out accusations as state crimes, to which the presidential pardon does not apply.
Manafort refused for months to help Mueller's investigation before admitting his guilt on criminal charges that he was hiding money from the tax authorities.