- The special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said in a new court filing that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort breached his plea deal by telling “discernible lies” after agreeing to cooperate in the Russia probe.
- Prosecutors said Manafort lied in statements he made about his association with a Russian-Ukrainian political operative, wire transfers to a firm of which he was a client, and his communications with Trump administration officials, among other things.
- They also said Manafort lied about “information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation.”
- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to minimise the revelations, saying in a statement that the government’s filing in the Manafort case “says absolutely nothing about the President. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues.”
The special counsel Robert Mueller said in a new court filing Friday that Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign, told “discernible lies” after agreeing to cooperate with the ongoing Russia investigation.
Prosecutors said Manafort lied about several topics, including:
- His interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian intelligence operative who was charged, along with Manafort, with obstruction of justice and attempted witness tampering earlier this year.
- Kilimnik’s role in the alleged conspiracy to obstruct justice by trying to influence the testimony of two witnesses in February.
- A $US125,000 payment made to a firm in 2017 related to a debt that Manafort had incurred.
His communications with Trump administration officials. According to prosecutors, Manafort told them that he only spoke with certain individuals before they joined the administration or after they left, but those statements were inconsistent with the truth.
- In fact, prosecutors said, Manafort authorised someone on May 26 to speak with an administration official on his behalf.
- The filing also pointed out that Manafort said in February that he had been in touch with a senior administration official until that month.
- And a review of the former Trump campaign chief’s electronic documents revealed additional contacts with administration officials, prosecutors said.
- Information that was “pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation.” Prosecutors said Manafort first gave them information relevant to the investigation when he met with Mueller’s team prior to pleading guilty. But they said he gave a “different and exculpatory version of events” after agreeing to cooperate.
Many of the details in Mueller’s filing are redacted, but it reveals that federal investigators collected evidence of Manafort’s alleged series of lies via “electronic communications” and “travel records.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to minimise the revelations, saying in a statement that the government’s filing in the Manafort case “says absolutely nothing about the President. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues.”
Sanders accused the news media of “trying to create a story where there isn’t one.”
A late November court filing from Mueller’s office had accused Manafort of lying to investigators from the special counsel’s office and the FBI “on a variety of subject matters” in the two months he was nominally a formal cooperating witness in the Mueller probe.
The filing said Manafort “thus relieves the government of any obligations it has under the agreement,” since the terms of the plea deal required Manafort to agree not to commit crimes during the course of his cooperation.
Manafort has been charged twice in the Mueller probe for offenses relating to his years of work lobbying for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party in the US.
Manafort was first charged in December 2017 in Washington, DC, on 12 offenses, including money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, and obstruction of justice. He and his deputy Rick Gates were charged again in the Eastern District of Virginia on 18 counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts in February 2018.
While Gates immediately chose to take a plea deal and testify against his former mentor, Manafort went to trial. In August, a jury in Arlington, Virginia, convicted him on eight counts of tax and bank fraud, with a mistrial declared on the other 10 counts to which jurors could not come to a consensus.
Manafort was scheduled to go to trial again in September, but instead struck a deal with the special counsel’s office to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of justice in exchange for his cooperation.
Now that Manafort’s plea deal has fallen apart, his last hope to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison is a presidential pardon.
Trump has spent months publicly signalling he could pardon Manafort, saying that he believed Manafort’s treatment was “unfair” and calling him “brave” for not flipping, in contrast to Cohen.
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