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

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDemocratic impeachment investigators looking at whether Trump misled Mueller Gates sentencing set for next month Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations MORE went “above and beyond” with his plea deal on Friday with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' 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 SchiffFive things to know about Tuesday's impeachment hearings Nunes complains Democrats adding extra time for questioning witnesses Volker says he rejected Biden 'conspiracy theory' pushed by Giuliani 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