Manafort went ‘above and beyond’ with plea deal, says ex-federal prosecutor

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDebate builds over making Mueller report public BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell MORE went “above and beyond” with his plea deal on Friday with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's team, according a former federal prosecutor.

Joseph Moreno, who was a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said on Monday that Manafort had two plea options and ultimately chose the one that would mean more cooperation with Mueller.

“He could have done a straight plea akin to what Michael Cohen did in New York a month ago, basically saying: 'I’m going to take responsibility for what I did. I’m not going to fight the charges. I did it. I will throw myself at the mercy of the court and take my sentence,' ” Moreno told Hill.TV co-hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“The other option is a cooperation agreement, which appears to be what Mr. Manafort is doing, which is saying: ‘OK, I will go above and beyond. Not only will I not fight these charges against me, I will cooperate in any way necessary,' ” added Moreno, who is now a partner in the White Collar Defense and Investigations Group at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.

He said even though it remains to be seen what Manafort knows, the plea deal is “not great” for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE because Manafort's deal with prosecutors is wide-ranging.

In what largely has been seen as a victory for Mueller's team, Manafort on Friday agreed to a deal with federal prosecutors that includes full cooperation. The ex-campaign chairman pleaded guilty to two felony charges: one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice for tampering with witnesses.

Manafort last month was found guilty in a separate trial on eight felony charges related to bank and tax fraud.

His plea deal prompted a warning from Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDebate builds over making Mueller report public Media reliability questioned over report Trump directed lies to Congress Giuliani defends Trump going after Cohen's father-in-law MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

“This sends a message to anyone who is in Bob Mueller’s crosshairs right now — you better get to the special counsel and make your deal now because anyone who gets indicted by Bob Mueller goes down,” Schiff told NBC News's “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

— Tess Bonn