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September 14, 2018

Paul Manafort's chances of a presidential pardon likely flew out the window Friday when he agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Not that a pardon would've mattered anyway, journalist Marcy Wheeler suggests.

Even after being convicted of financial crimes last month, Manafort "refused to ... make up stories in order to get a 'deal,'" President Trump tweeted at the time. The president was even considering pardoning his former campaign chair, though Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he suggested Trump should wait until Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation had ended.

But on Friday, Manafort reached a plea deal with prosecutors — including a 17-page cooperation agreement with Mueller's investigation. And even if Manafort was still in Trump's good graces, a pardon would still probably be useless, Wheeler points out on her site Empty Wheel:

Wheeler also surmised that, after the plea deal news broke, it was obvious that Manafort would cooperate because no reporters immediately confirmed he wouldn't. Keeping the cooperation secret for nearly two hours was apparently part of Mueller's strategy, as it would "prevent a last-minute pardon from Trump undercutting" the deal, Wheeler writes.

As part of the plea deal, Manafort also pleaded guilty to two federal conspiracy charges ahead of what was supposed to be his second trial regarding his political work with Ukraine. Read more of Wheeler's analysis at Empty Wheel. Kathryn Krawczyk