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

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortA tale of two lies: Stone, McCabe and the danger of a double standard for justice Fox's Napolitano: Roger Stone 'absolutely entitled' to new trial after juror's tweets revealed Jessie Liu resigns after nomination for Treasury post withdrawn: report MORE went “above and beyond” with his plea deal on Friday with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press 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 SchiffSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump DOJ lawyers resign en masse over Roger Stone sentencing 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