Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Trump Signs U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement: Another Win For American Workers

Monday afternoon in New York, President Trump fulfilled another one of his promises to the American people.

In a ceremony with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, President Trump signed a revised U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (KORUS), which has significant wins for American workers and businesses.

USTR Fact Sheet:


IMPROVING BAD TRADE DEALS: President Trump has fulfilled his promise to fight for American workers and businesses in an amended trade deal with South Korea.

  • In July 2017, at the direction of the President, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer initiated discussions to amend the United States–Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), setting off multiple rounds of negotiations.
  • Since KORUS went into effect in 2012, USTR calculated that the overall trade deficit between the United States and Korea has increased from $6.3 billion to $9.8 billion in 2017, a jump of more than 50 percent.

LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD: The Trump Administration has secured key improvements to KORUS that will protect jobs in America’s auto industry and increase United States exports
  • As a result of negotiations, South Korea will double the annual number of American automobiles – from 25,000 to 50,000 per manufacturer per year – that can enter its market using United States safety standards without further modifications.
  • South Korea is simplifying the sales environment for United States cars and parts by taking into account United States environmental and emissions standards.
  • American vehicles will be able to meet South Korean gasoline emissions standards based on compliance with United States emissions regulations, avoiding additional or duplicative testing.
  • South Korea will recognize United States standards for auto parts necessary to service United States vehicles, and will reduce labeling burdens for auto parts.
  • South Korea will expand the number of “eco-credits” available for United States automakers to meet South Korean emissions standards.
  • When setting fuel economy standards in the future, South Korea will take United States corporate average fuel economy regulations into account and will continue to include more lenient standards for smaller volume exporters.
  • The phase out of the 25 percent United States tariff on trucks will be extended until 2041, well beyond the current phase out date of 2021.

CUTTING RED TAPE ON EXPORTS AND HOLDING TRADE PARTNERS ACCOUNTABLE: The Trump Administration’s negotiations will eliminate burdensome regulations that have impeded United States exports and ensure that trade partners follow through on implementation.

  • South Korea has agreed to address issues with onerous and costly customs procedures that have hindered United States exports.
  • South Korea has agreed to change its pharmaceutical reimbursement policy for innovative drugs to give fair treatment to United States exports by the end of this year, consistent with its KORUS obligations.

DEFENDING AMERICAN STEEL: Outside the context of KORUS, the Trump Administration has reached a deal with South Korea to protect American steel manufacturers and national security.

  • On March 8, 2018, after receiving a report and recommendations from Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, President Trump announced tariffs on imported steel under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended, in order to defend America’s national security.
  • The Trump Administration has reached satisfactory alternative means with South Korea to address United States national-security concerns.
  • Steel imports from South Korea into the United States will be limited to a product-specific quota equal to 70 percent of that country’s average annual import volume from 2015 through 2017.

ADDRESSING UNFAIR CURRENCY PRACTICES: The Trump Administration is working to ensure that American goods are treated fairly and that our trading partners avoid unfair currency practices.

  • Outside the context of KORUS, the Treasury Department has an understanding with South Korea to avoid competitive devaluation and practices that provide an unfair competitive advantage.
  • The understanding includes strong commitments on exchange rate practices, robust transparency, and reporting.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Why Black Voters Are Turning to Trump

By Karin McQuillan| American Greatness

Photo Credit: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The growing positive attitude of black voters towards President Trump is the wildcard in the coming midterm elections. It is real and it is expanding.

Polls are showing anywhere from 20 percent to 36 percent of blacks approve of President Trump. The Democrats even may have lost 11 percent of black women.

The cracks in the black Democrat bloc voting are one of the most consequential results of Barack Obama’s presidency and the phenomenal effectiveness of President Trump’s pro-business policies. 

This could be a historic turning point.

Measurable Progress

Trump’s economic policies have improved the lives of black Americans, just as he promised they would during the election. Unlike Obama’s media hype, Trump’s progress is as real and as solid as his buildings.

Black unemployment continues to fall. Good manufacturing jobs are coming back. Paychecks are rising, too.

The roots of this political watershed in the black community are more complex than job figures and will last beyond Trump’s tenure. I have been listening for hours to ordinary black Americans on the #Walkaway movement’s YouTube channel.

This is a movement of former Democrats explaining why they are leaving their party. While each face, voice, and story is unique and fascinating, there are some striking recurring themes.

Ironically, the change seems to have started with President Obama’s election.

President Obama raised the hopes of black Americans to the highest they’ve been since Martin Luther King. 

The entire country expected he would devote himself to getting blacks better schools, more jobs, higher wages, and safer neighborhoods. Instead, Obama ignored those bread-and-butter needs. 

His signature initiative was to send Eric Holder to stoke up publicity and fear in the wake of the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown shootings.

In the short term, hyping fake white racism and police brutality worked to stanch the bleeding in black turnout in the 2012 election. In the long term, however, Obama’s reliance on racial fear and grievance increased black suffering. He broke people’s hearts and blew up many black voters’ loyalty to the Democrats.

The #Walkaway videos are remarkably consistent on that score

Obama got them paying attention to party politics for the first time. Next came the emotional roller coaster, as joy turned to disappointment. Obama’s identity politics agenda, now amplified by progressive Democrats, was a cynical ploy and it has become is a total turn off to those now paying attention. 

These black voters hate illegal immigration. Obama marked the end of their romance with the Democrat Party, not a new beginning.

Surprised by the Truth

Few of these ex-Democrats voted for Trump, but they were willing to give Trump a chance after the election. 

They find Trump Derangement Syndrome ludicrous. In fact, they love what he is doing. They appreciate the jobs he is creating, and they share his patriotism.

They are listening to—in some case meeting—deplorables and finding them kind, decent, and not racist.

A last, and very interesting theme, is after Obama got them engaged, most of these black Democrats started doing research on the internet. 

They were riveted learning the history of the Democratic Party. They care deeply and viscerally about slavery. What a shock to discover they had been lied to about it all their lives.

President Lincoln was not a Democrat, as they’d been led to think in school. It was not Republicans who were the party of racism, but Democrats.

They learned for the first time that Democrats were slave owners. Over and over, they share their surprise at learning the Democrats are the party of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. 

Democrats are the party that destroyed the black family. Bill Clinton set off the explosion of black incarceration. They are done permanently as Democrats.

This is a revolutionary change of perspective on the identity of the two parties. It was mentioned in almost every video I watched.

Virtually every video begins with a statement like this one from a GenX woman: “I always followed the crowd. . . . Everybody is supposed to be a Democrat. Black people vote Democrat . . . . We were taught Republicans are all bad, racist, only care about the rich. I fell for that for quite a long time.”

Same words from a young  business major: “I never truly chose the Democrat Party. Being the family I’m in, the area I’m in, the color I am. Everyone was Democrat by default . . . I never heard anyone debate any political issue . . . I was on a conveyor belt of ‘next Democrat’ . . . never had any information . . . I didn’t know which side was left (or) right. I was so uninformed, so many people around me uninformed.”

A working guy sounds a similar theme: “Way back when I was a kid, I was taught Republicans were evil white people who didn’t want to share with black people. Black people were Democrats. . . . there was a black party and a white party . . . I voted straight Democrat . . . I finally stopped voting . . . They’re all greedy, just another white man in the White House . . .  I forgot all about it to be honest . . . didn’t know who was in office.”

Obama Raised Hopes—and Dashed Them

President Obama got millions of blacks interested in following politics for the first time in a long time. “Hope and change” was not an empty slogan to them. They felt it, deeply, emotionally. Even uninterested, cynical, disengaged people allowed themselves to get invested.

A young vet speaks for many. “I was so happy, I cried. I can’t believe I live in this day and age. I was told this would never happen because white America hates black people. That’s how I was raised . . . I was into him . . . I joined the military ’cause I wanted to serve Barack Obama.”

Another woman expressed what many others also said: “[Obama was] so eloquent, seemed intelligent, real cool . . . thought he’d try to get the inner cities together, get better education for black children. That’s what I assumed. Make things better for black people.”

A Millennial man who first voted in 2012 repeats the typical story. Obama got him interested. “This is going to be historic.” He began to do “binge political researching.”

Obama got these supporters involved, and euphorically hopeful. Then he let them down.

“As soon as he got in office, this dude started going sideways . . . this isn’t what we voted for,” the Millennial says. 

Obama focused on getting money and votes from greens, gays, feminists, and illegals, and used race-baiting to keep the black vote. They noticed nothing got better.

These are people who did not have the luxury to make excuses for Obama.

Many in the black community are enduring real suffering—not the snowflake variety. They were looking for results, not left-wing virtue signaling. Obama broke the spell. Here was the ultimate Democrat who had a shot to come through and improve black lives, and he fired blanks.

Under Obama, says a YouTuber who calls himself “That Black Dude,” “I watched my paycheck decrease from $860 . . .  after four more years to 690 bucks every two weeks . . . I can’t survive like this . . . and the news kept telling me that everything was great . . . this was the hope and change, and we have to get used to unemployment.”

“They just make promises and don’t do anything,” says another young black woman, “and our communities . . . education for our children are still jacked up . . . I didn’t see any progress for Americans, for working, everyday average Americans . . . Obama, all these promises he had not made and weren’t being kept.”

“Democrat Party have no plan, no direction, no future, no way of looking at growth . . . growing on hate is not what this country should be, wants to be,” says a man who goes by the handle “NtenseFit Way.”

A thoughtful young man explains his thinking in a video well worth your time:

"All [Democrats] want to do is monetize white guilt . . . it’s not really productive, man, because we never address the core issues . . . . [Democrat] policies do not work . . . enough is enough. It is time to break the cycle. Me, I made a decision, man, I can no longer support the Democrat Party. Because they are not the party for black people, they’re not even the party of America. They are such a far-Left socialist party . . . I don’t know who they’re working for—it ain’t us. In every state they run . . . opportunities diminish . . . their policies are failed. . . . I can’t do it anymore. I’m conservative."

Some blame Obama by name. Many do not. But his failure to help, or even try, was their final break with the Democratic Party.

“All you seen since you were a kid and you were black were promises on things they were gonna change, things would become better. All you seen, things have become worse,” says a man who identifies himself as an ex-felon.

He asks and answers: “Who’s responsible, who’s running this system? It’s the Democrats. Destroyed the black family. Destroyed the black home . . . . They come every four years and they take take take and they don’t give you shit back. I’m tired of it, tired of the excuses.”

Identity Politics is a Loser

Hillary Clinton tried to follow in Obama’s footsteps with identity politics. But many black men feel targeted by feminism. Others are appalled by the Democratic Party’s promotion of abortion, which disproportionately targets black communities. 

Black men and women are furious that illegal aliens seem to receive better treatment from Democrats than American citizens.

Intersectionality is failing to unite them with the other privileged grievance groups. These voters realize their interests are not identical or even similar to leftist politics.

Hillary personally was a turn-off and her corruption was appalling. 

A former Bernie Sanders supporter expresses his disgust, which extended from Clinton to all progressives, eventually including Sanders himself. “The thing that completely opened my eyes like someone threw cold water on you in the middle of the night . . . was the DNC rigging the election,he says.

The progressive Democratic Party has no positive message for blacks.

“Party of victimhood. Party of excuses,” says Hermes Justin Wilson. “Those who see themselves as eternal victims will always stay that way . . . using black people as a stepping stool . . . keeping them low by having them stuck in this mindset.”

And then Donald Trump happened. Trump was not a turn off to them. He is familiar. Trump was known and liked by many blacks because of “The Apprentice.” They are fine with his braggadocio and outsized personality

They admire his success as a businessman. Some know his reputation as a friend of blacks. Some were willing to give him a hearing and a chance.

Even those who did not vote for Trump are open about how much they love him now. 

President Trump is delivering, big time, on jobs, on crime, on actually improving their daily lives.

Making Patriotism Cool Again

Trump is delivering on another thing a lot of these #Walkaways care about: patriotism and unity.

“We live in the greatest country on earth and I am proud to be an American,” says a well-dressed man who calls himself YG Nyghtstorm. “I am so happy to see so many of my fellow citizens standing against hatred and putting America first.”


They are listening to Republicans, they’re meeting them at work. They like them and realize they have shared values. 

They are finding out for themselves that Republicans are not racist.

These black voters have Republican values on abortion, marriage, hard work, creating opportunities for people to make something of themselves, and loving America.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lisa Page bombshell: FBI couldn’t prove Trump-Russia collusion before Mueller appointment

By John Solomon | The Hill

Former FBI Lawyer Lisa Page and fired FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok exchanged anti-Trump text messages during their time at the bureau.  (AP, File)

To date, Lisa Page’s infamy has been driven mostly by the anti-Donald Trump text messages she exchanged with fellow FBI agent Peter Strzok as the two engaged in an affair while investigating the president for alleged election collusion with Russia.

Yet, when history judges the former FBI lawyer years from now, her most consequential pronouncement may not have been typed on her bureau-issued Samsung smartphone to her colleague and lover.

Rather, it might be eight simple words she uttered behind closed doors during a congressional interview a few weeks ago.

“It’s a reflection of us still not knowing,” Page told Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) when questioned about texts she and Strzok exchanged in May 2017 as Robert Mueller was being named a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation.

With that statement, Page acknowledged a momentous fact: After nine months of using some of the most awesome surveillance powers afforded to U.S. intelligence, the FBI still had not made a case connecting Trump or his campaign to Russia’s election meddling.

Page opined further, acknowledging “it still existed in the scope of possibility that there would be literally nothing” to connect Trump and Russia, no matter what Mueller or the FBI did.

“As far as May of 2017, we still couldn’t answer the question,” she said at another point.

I reached out to Page's lawyer, Amy Jeffress, on Friday. She declined to answer questions about her client’s cooperation with Congress.

It might take a few seconds for the enormity of Page’s statements to sink in.

After all, she isn’t just any FBI lawyer. She was a lead on the Russia case when it started in summer 2016, and she helped it transition to Mueller through summer 2017.

For those who might cast doubt on the word of a single FBI lawyer, there’s more.

Shortly after he was fired, ex-FBI Director James Comey told the Senate there was not yet evidence to justify investigating Trump for colluding with Russia. “When I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump,” Comey testified.

And Strzok, the counterintelligence boss and leader of the Russia probe, texted Page in May 2017 that he was reluctant to join Mueller’s probe and leave his senior FBI post because he feared “there’s no big there, there.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general asked Strzok shortly before he was fired from the FBI what he meant by that text, and he offered a most insightful answer.

Strzok said he wasn’t certain there was a “broad, coordinated effort” to hijack the election and that the evidence of Trump campaign aides talking about getting Hillary Clinton dirt from Russians might have been just a “bunch of opportunists” talking to heighten their importance.

Strzok added that, while he raised the idea of impeachment in some of his texts to Page, “I am, again, was not, am not convinced or certain that it will,” he told the IG.

So, by the words of Comey, Strzok and Page, we now know that the Trump Justice Department — through Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — unleashed the Mueller special prosecutor probe before the FBI could validate a connection between Trump and Russia.

Which raises the question: If there was no concrete evidence of collusion, why did we need a special prosecutor?

Page’s comments also mean FBI and Justice officials likely leaked a barrage of media stories just before and after Mueller’s appointment that made the evidence of collusion look far stronger than the frontline investigators knew it to be. 

Text messages show contacts between key FBI and DOJ players and the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times during the ramp-up to Mueller’s probe.

And that means the news media — perhaps longing to find a new Watergate, to revive sagging fortunes — were far too willing to be manipulated by players in a case that began as a political opposition research project funded by Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and led by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who despised Trump.

Finally, Page’s statement signals that the nation’s premier intelligence court may not have been given a complete picture of the evidence — or lack thereof — as it approved an extraordinary surveillance intrusion into an American presidential nominee’s campaign just weeks before Election Day.

There was no fault to the FBI checking whether Trump was compromised by Russia; that is a classic counterintelligence responsibility.

The real fault lies in those leaders who allowed a secret investigation to mushroom into a media maelstrom driven by official leaks that created a story that far exceeded the evidence, and then used that false narrative to set a special prosecutor flying downhill ahead of his skis.

No matter where Mueller ends his probe, it is now clear the actions that preceded his appointment turned justice on its head, imposing the presumption of guilt upon a probe whose own originators had reason to doubt the strength of their evidence.


The biggest scandal

By Scott Johnson | POWERLINE 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (AP, File)

Earlier this year I wrote a series of posts contra the dross of April Doss

The “dross” was found in the Weekly Standard cover story by Doss. 

The cover story disparaged House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and asserted that he is retailing a “conspiracy theory” involving the Obama administration’s misuse of FISA on Carter Page to investigate the Trump presidential campaign. 

Doss purported to lay down the truth about Nunes and FISA. 

The truth is that Doss’s cover story was a disgrace.

The FISA warrant applications on Carter Page open a window onto the biggest scandal in American political history. 

I have embedded them here previously and have embedded them again below. They are the ocular proof of the scandal.

The invaluable Andrew McCarthy has now cracked open the window a little wider in two columns with one theme: FISA Docs Show: Long Before Mueller, Trump-Russia Was an Investigation Without a Crime

The first column (posted yesterday afternoon) is “Reading the FISA redactions.” The second is “In the Russia Probe, It’s ‘Qui S’excuse S’accuse’” (posted this morning — the French expression is to the effect that “he who excuses himself accuses himself”).

These are long, detailed, illuminating and educational columns that draw on McCarthy’s professional expertise. Stick with them — both of them. Do not miss either one.

Andy says he has read the FISA applications so you don’t have to. He has performed a great public service in these columns. Even so, I say you have to review the FISA applications with your own eyes. 

They are shocking. Drawing from my series on Doss’s Weekly Standard cover story, I want to restate the relevant background in the context of Andy’s linked columns:

• Under Title I of FISA — see this useful House Intel Committee summary 

It was the burden of the government to establish probable cause that Page was engaging in espionage, terrorism, or sabotage by or on behalf of a foreign power that involved a violation of a criminal statute.

Doss stated: “Although Page had left the campaign, the FBI feared Russia was using him for its own purposes. The application states that the FBI alleged there was probable cause to believe Page was an agent of a foreign power under a specific provision of FISA that involves knowingly aiding, abetting, or knowingly conspiring to assist a foreign power with clandestine intelligence gathering activities, engage in clandestine intelligence gathering at the behest of a foreign power, or participate in sabotage or international terrorism or planning or preparation therefor.”

• Doss to the contrary notwithstanding, the allegations cited by Doss in her article don’t make out probable cause that Page is a Russian agent on any fair reading of the facts once the Steele dossier is seen for what it is.

• The FBI relied in substantial part on the allegations of the Steele dossier to obtain the FISA warrant on Page. Although the applications swear otherwise, these allegations were unverified. I observed in my series that Andy was one of the knowledgeable observers who disputes Doss on the propriety of this reliance. Doss simply omitted any acknowledgement of the related issues.

• The FBI nevertheless secured the FISA surveillance warrant on Page in October 2016 and renewed it three more times at 90-day intervals. I held out the possibility that the cited facts together with the redacted material fairly establish probable cause, but we have yet to see it. McCarthy now demonstrates that this is highly unlikely.

• Whether or not the FBI made out probable cause, it must have monitored Page’s every communication by text, email and cell phone for a year. Yet Page remains a free man. No charge of any kind — not even a process crime such the one used against Michael Flynn and George Papadoploulos — has been brought against Carter Page. The circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Page is not a Russian agent.

• Given the year-long surveillance on him without any resulting charge, Page might not only not be a Russian agent, he might be the cleanest man in Washington.

• Carter Page was a victim of government misconduct whose true object was Donald Trump.

Quotable quote: “[L]et’s dispense with the tired claim that the Obama administration did not really spy on Trump and his campaign. 

Every one of the four FISA warrant applications, after describing Russia’s cyberespionage attack on the 2016 election, makes the following assertion (after two redacted lines): ‘the FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts to influence the 2016 election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s [i.e., Trump’s] campaign.]'”

One more: “For Mueller, the Russia counterintelligence probe was cover to conduct a criminal investigation of Trump in the absence of grounds to believe a crime had occurred.”

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Woodward: No Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion, I Searched For Two Years

In an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Friday, Bob Woodward said that in his two years of investigating for his new book, 'Fear,' he found no evidence of collusion or espionage between Trump and Russia. Woodward said he looked for it "hard" and yet turned up nothing.

"So let’s set aside the Comey firing, which as a Constitutional law professor, no one will ever persuade me can be obstruction. And Rod Rosenstein has laid out reasons why even if those weren’t the president’s reasons. Set aside the Comey firing. Did you, Bob Woodward, hear anything in your research in your interviews that sounded like espionage or collusion?" Hugh Hewitt asked Woodward.

"I did not, and of course, I looked for it, looked for it hard," Woodward answered. "And so you know, there we are. We’re going to see what Mueller has, and Dowd may be right. He has something that Dowd and the president don’t know about, a secret witness or somebody who has changed their testimony. As you know, that often happens, and that can break open or turn a case."

"But you’ve seen no collusion?" Hewitt asked again to confirm.

"I have not," Woodward affirmed.

Hewitt would once again ask Woodward about collusion at the conclusion of the interview.

"Very last question, Bob Woodward, I just want to confirm, at the end of two years of writing this book, this intensive effort, you saw no effort, you, personally, had no evidence of collusion or espionage by the president presented to you?" Hewitt asked.

"That is correct," Woodward said.

The full exchange:

HUGH HEWITT, HOST: Yeah, but I just think people who have been critical of you in the public, all they have to do is say hey, release my tapes, Bob, and we’ll find out whether Gary Cohn said what he said, and John Dowd said what he said, and Rob Porter said what they said. Now let’s get to the substance. I believe that if the president had actually read this book, and their team had read this book, they would not have attacked the book. They would have spun it differently, because there’s a lot complimentary in this book, the most important of which is John Dowd firmly believes, the president’s former lawyer, that the special counsel, Bob Mueller, has nothing. There’s no collusion, there’s nothing. It’s all a play to get an 18 USC 1001 perjury trap, and that POTUS should never sit down. Is that a fair assessment of what John Dowd believes?

BOB WOODWARD, 'FEAR' AUTHOR: Oh, well, yeah, until we end. And finally, it, the point where Dowd resigns because he is convinced the president should not testify, Dowd concludes that Mueller had played him for a sucker, got all of the cooperation of 37 witnesses, a million pages-plus of campaign documents, 20,000 pages of White House documents. So in the end, as he says to the president, he said you were right. We can’t trust Mueller.

HH: And I tell you, Bob Woodward, I read this book as a lawyer. I’m not a defense lawyer, although I was at Justice. Dowd got played badly. Do you agree?

BW: Well, but he is the one who decided on the strategy – total cooperation. We’re going to let you, we’re opening the door completely. And some of the most sensitive material was given to Mueller. He was delighted to have it. It is quite true that Dowd concluded from his own work, remember, he spent eight months on this intensely, time with Mueller, time with the White House people, time with Trump. And he didn’t see anything there until the end.

HH: So let’s set aside the Comey firing, which as a Constitutional law professor, no one will ever persuade me can be obstruction. And Rod Rosenstein has laid out reasons why even if those weren’t the president’s reasons. Set aside the Comey firing. Did you, Bob Woodward, hear anything in your research in your interviews that sounded like espionage or collusion?

BW: I did not, and of course, I looked for it, looked for it hard. And so you know, there we are. We’re going to see what Mueller has, and Dowd may be right. He has something that Dowd and the president don’t know about, a secret witness or somebody who has changed their testimony. As you know, that often happens, and that can break open or turn a case.

HH: But you’ve seen no collusion?

BW: I have not.



Paul Manafort pleads guilty, agrees to cooperate in deal with Mueller team

By Alex Pappas, Jake Gibson | Fox News

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty in federal court Friday as part of a plea agreement that involves cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and allows him to avoid a second trial.

“I plead guilty," Manafort, 69, told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman in Washington.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge that Manafort's deal includes a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, who are investigating whether any Trump associates played a role in Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. That could include interviews with prosecutors and testifying in court.

A defense attorney for Manafort told Fox News the deal includes "full cooperation."

But the president's team downplayed the significance of Manafort's plea.

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement to Fox News. "The reason: the president did nothing wrong."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that Manafort's decision is "totally unrelated" to the president.

Manafort, in a trial set to begin Sept. 24, had been facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering in federal court in Washington. 

In August, in a separate trial in Virginia, a federal jury found Manafort guilty on eight counts of federal tax and banking crimes.

Manafort faces up to 10 years on these charges in Washington. He still faces sentencing for his guilty verdict in Virginia.

As part of this agreement, Manafort has forfeited multiple bank accounts and several properties in New York. However, he will keep his properties in Florida and Virginia, where his family live.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing told reporters after the court hearing it was a “tough day” for his client, “who has accepted responsibility.” He said Manafort “wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life.”

The case was brought by Mueller's team, which is probing potential crimes related to the 2016 election. But Manafort has not been charged with anything related to the campaign.

In August, Manafort’s bank and tax fraud conviction made him the first campaign associate of Trump found guilty by a jury as part of Mueller’s probe.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” Trump told reporters after the August verdict, adding that it had "nothing to do with Russian collusion." The president has called Mueller's probe a "witch hunt."

Trump also said he had “such respect” for Manafort and called him a “brave man.” In comments interpreted to mean he was open to pardoning Manafort, Trump commended Manafort, saying he “refused to break” and “make up stories in order to get a deal.”

In the Virginia trial, prosecutors said Manafort hid income earned from political work overseas from the IRS while fraudulently obtaining millions in bank loans. Manafort had pleaded not guilty to all counts.

The prosecution’s star witness, Rick Gates – Manafort’s former business partner who struck a plea deal to cooperate with the government -- testified during the trial that he and Manafort committed bank and tax fraud together.

Downing, Manafort's attorney, suggested after the guilty verdict in August that Manafort was open to striking a deal before the second trial.
“He is evaluating all of his options at this point,” Downing said of Manafort.

Fox News' Catherine Herridge, John Roberts and NuNu Japaridze contributed to this report.