Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, is close to reaching a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a second trial on further criminal charges, according to reports.
He already faces around 10 years in prison after having been convicted in a separate case last month in the Eastern District of Virginia on bank and tax fraud charges.
Manafort and his top lawyers spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of Mueller's special prosecutors who are neck deep in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election and possible collusion with Trump's campaign.
Another reason for Manafort to enter a plea - and the ABC News report reiterated this - is that Manafort would be spared exorbitant legal costs on a second trial that already appears likely to result in a guilty verdict, at least in part.
The trial would be the second for Manafort stemming from Mueller's sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
A move by Manafort to cooperate could be a blow to Trump, while an outright guilty plea with no cooperation would resolve a cloud over the president ahead of congressional elections in less than two months.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russian Federation probe, previously told the Politico news outlet that taking a plea deal to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort's chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon. Opening statements for trial number two are still scheduled (until we learn officially that there won't be a trial) for September 24.
Jackson said she would allow Downing to file additional information about his argument before issuing a ruling, but was inclined to bar such references because they weren't relevant to the charges against Manafort.
Trump has repeatedly come to Manafort's defense.
In the Virginia trial, prosecutors said Manafort hid from US tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle that included purchasing multimillion-dollar properties, an ostrich skin jacket and other valuables. The witness tampering allegations were brought earlier this year, and Manafort has been in jail, awaiting trial, since June because of them.