Paul Manafort is reportedly discussing plea bargain in second trial

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Paul Manafort is reportedly discussing a plea deal with prosecutors ahead of his second trial, a move that could worry supporters of President Donald Trump.

The preliminary negotiations may not result an agreement to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is prosecuting Manafort, the Washington Post reported, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the discussions.

Manafort, 69, was Trump’s campaign chairman during part of the 2016 election, though none of the charges in the upcoming trial in Washington DC or the prior one in Virginia relate to the election.

At the first trial, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes, while the jury hung on the remaining 10 counts.

Trump tweeted his support for Manafort upon news of the conviction, writing: ‘I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family.’

Trump added: ‘he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!’

It is unclear whether any plea deal reached in the second trial would include providing Mueller with information about Trump. 

Manafort had the choice to consolidate the two trials but declined – an aggressive tactic that signaled his intention to fight each of the counts against him.

A possible plea deal would be a dramatic change in legal strategy. Manafort’s spokesman declined to comment to the Post, and his lawyers did not return a request for comment.

Manafort is awaiting sentencing in the first trial, and faces up to 10 years in prison in that case.

Trump and his spokespeople have not ruled out a pardon for Manafort, and has the power to pardon any convictions from either the first or second trial. 

Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer, has said only that Trump would refrain from issuing any pardons until Mueller completes his investigation. 

In the meantime, Manafort remains incarcerated at the Alexandria City Jail in Virginia. It is unclear whether any deal with Mueller in the second case could affect sentencing in the first one.

Jury selection in the second trial is set to begin on Monday, with opening statements scheduled for September 24. 

Manafort faces charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering, failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, making false statements to investigators and witness tampering. 

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