Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort agrees to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Trump-Russia investigation.

Manafort pleaded guilty on Friday to two new conspiracy charges, following his conviction in August on eight counts of fraud and tax evasion. As part of the plea deal, announced in a federal court hearing in Washington, he agreed to answer “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” questions about “any and all matters”.

The announcement was a surprise. Even earlier this week, reports said that Manafort — who had said for months that he would prove his innocence — would only accept the deal if he did not have to speak about Trump, who in turn praised his ex-campaign manager for standing up to pressure and hinted he might give a Presidential pardon.

Trump’s team scrambled to distance their client from developments. Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani initially said, “Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: The president did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”

After the revelation of Manafort’s agreement to cooperate with Mueller, Giuliani withdrew the second sentence of his statement.

Trump was silent on Twitter, as he — and his staff — preferred messages about the landfall of Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.

Manafort, a long-time consultant to Republican campaigns and to foreign entities — including the ties to pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians that were his eventual downfall — was Trump’s campaign manager for five months in 2016. He was a participant in the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, in which he, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner met three Kremlin-linked envoys to discuss the provision of material damaging to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Four other Trump aides have already cooperated with Mueller in return for reduced charges: Trump’s long-time lawyer Michael Cohen; former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn; Manafort’s top aide and former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates; and campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.

Manafort considered the possibility of a Trump pardon, according to “two people familiar with his situation”, and his lawyers and Trump’s personal lawyers shared information about Mueller’s inquiry.

However, when there was no word of a pardon after his conviction in August, Manafort reconsidered his position, according to one source.

Manafort’s stumbling denial in March 2017 of any links between Donald Trump and Russian entities:


Administration Ends Last US Source of Aid for Palestinian Civilians

The Trump Administration is blocking the last US program of assistance for Palestinian civilians.

The Administration is stopping the renewal of $10 million for people-to-people exchanges between Palestinians and Israelis, often for youth, and for Israeli Jews and Arabs. The program’s funding ends this month.

Trying to press Palestinian authorities into concessions to the Israeli Government of Benjamin Netanyahu, with no sign of a renewal of talks, the Administration has withdrawn the US contribution of $200 million for the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, UNRWA. Earlier this month it cancelled $25 million for six hospitals in East Jerusalem that treat Palestinians.

Officials from the US Agency for International Development told Congressional aides last week that the people-ot-people programs for Palestinians alongside Israelis will receive no more funds.

According to Tim Rieser, foreign policy aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, USAID did not want to cut the programs but had to accommodate the White House.

“Essentially, USAID was faced with the choice of shutting down the program and losing the funds, or keeping something going,” Rieser said. “They decided to support programs that involve Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.”

USAID said it is “currently unable to engage Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as a result of the administration’s recent decision on Palestinian assistance….[We are] continuing its support for civil society working on these issues within Israel.”

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who says he is pursuing a “peace plan”, has led the effort to cut all funding for Palestinians.

“Nobody is entitled to America’s foreign aid,” Kushner said on Thursday.

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