Manafort 'wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe' before accepting plea deal: attorney
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Kremlin photo)

Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy charges as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, told reporters it was a "tough day" for his client. "But he's accepted responsibility. He wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life."

"He has accepted responsibility. And this is for conduct that dates back many years," Downing added.

Manafort was facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering in a trial set to begin later this month. The charges were related to consulting work on behalf of pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.

Ryan Goodman -- the co-editor-in-chief of Just Security and a former special counsel for the Department of Defense -- noted that observers had suspected that Manafort was slow to cooperate with Mueller because he feared retaliation from Russian operatives.