WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s private legal team is playing down a guilty plea issued Friday by Paul Manafort, the former chair of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Rudy Giuliani, who is spearheading Trump’s legal response, said in a statement. “The reason: the President did nothing wrong.”
Manafort will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe as part of a guilty plea, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said Friday at the start of a plea hearing, according to multiple media reports.
The longtime political operative was found guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud on Aug. 21 following a trial in Alexandria, Va. A mistrial was declared on the 10 other counts. He faced a maximum of 80 years in prison prior to the plea and was set to begin a second trial in Washington, D.C. for conspiracy and money laundering charges later this month.
Trump’s attorneys responded to the initial verdict in similar terms, noting that the charges did not touch upon on his campaign or show any wrongdoing on behalf of the president.
As part of a wide-ranging probe, Mueller is investigating potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
Trump and those in the president’s orbit have uniformly denied that any collusion took place.
In a statement Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reiterated the denial, noting that Manafort’s guilty plea is “totally unrelated” to the campaign.