Mueller Accuses Manafort of Witness Tampering, Wants Him Sent to Jail

Politics

Paul Manafort has been indicted once again by a federal grand jury in Washington D.C. on charges of fraud and money laundering. The new indictment also included charges of obstruction of justice.

The indictments were brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team and is the latest superseding indictment to be handed down against President Trump’s foreign campaign manager.

Two previous indictments were handed down in October 2017 and February 2018 against Manafort.

Manafort, along with a longtime associate who also worked for President Trump’s campaign, Rick Gates, are accused of laundering more than $30 million in profit from foreign lobbying exercises. Most of which were gained through lobbying efforts in Ukraine.

Millions of Dollars

Manafort worked for groups that supported pro-Russian dictator Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was ousted as Ukraine’s leader in February 2014 in a popular uprising, in favor of leadership that was more pro-European and pro-West.

Subsequent investigations by Ukrainian authorities uncovered documents that showed Manafort was receiving off-the-books – and potentially illegal – cash payments for his Ukraine work. Those payments – millions of dollars’ worth – found their way back to bank accounts owned by Manafort and Gates in the States, where they were spent to support opulent lifestyles.

Records show hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on landscaping for homes, expensive clothes and luxury cars. None of the money was properly reported to the IRS according to authorities, nor did Manafort or Gates disclose that they were working as foreign agents, something required by law.

Manafort has been on house arrest since he was first indicted in October. He is forced to wear two GPS ankle monitors, one each for courts in Washington, D.C. and Virginia where he is facing charges. His bail had been set at $10 million. Manafort, although trying repeatedly, has failed to come up with the assets required to fulfill that bond.

But now Mueller’s team is asking for that bail offer to be revoked and for Manafort to be sent to jail. In addition to new details on the fraud and money laundering charges, authorities also say he has tried to tamper with witnesses in his case.

“This is paul”

According to authorities, while working in Ukraine Manafort retained the services of a group of former senior European politicians who acted as third-party paid lobbyists for Ukraine. Manafort and Gates referred to the group as the “Hapsburg” group and Manafort is alleged to have paid its members more than 2 million euros.

Two individuals, principles of a public-relations company, acted as intermediaries between Manafort, Gates and the Hapsburg group. Those individuals, unidentified in court documents, are referred to by Mueller and his team as Persons D1 and D2.

Mueller’s team alleges that Manafort repeatedly contacted Persons D1 and D2 in order to get them to change their testimony to comport with what Manafort was telling authorities.

Neither D1 nor D2 had had any recent contact with Manafort, Mueller’s team alleges. But after February’s superseding indictment, Manafort called D1 on their cellular phone. D1 according to authorities ended the call. Manafort then sent D1 a text message on an encrypted application, writing “This is paul.”

Two days later, Manafort used the same encrypted application to send D1 a news article describing his indictment’s allegations regarding the Hapsburg group that included the statement, “two European politicians were secretly paid around €2 million by Manafort in order to ‘take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States.’”

One minute later Manafort wrote: “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”

D1 told investigators he believed Manafort’s statements were an effort to “suborn perjury,” because D1 knew that the Hapsburg group also worked in the U.S., not just Europe.

In an effort to connect with D1 again, another unidentified associate of Manafort and Gates’, identified in court documents as Person A, attempted to contact D2, who is a longtime partner of D1’s.

After the February indictment was handed down, Person A contacted D2 and wrote: “My friend P is trying to reach [Person D1] to brief him on what’s going on.” Then, he wrote: “Basically P wants to give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the US, and the purpose of the program was EU.”

In April 2018, Person A again reached out to D2. “My friend P is looking for ways to connect to you to pass you several messages. Can we arrange that.”

Like D1, D2 took the repeated outreach by Manafort as an attempt to coordinate responses, and that if members of the Hapsburg group were contacted by anyone they should say their lobbying work was done exclusively in Europe, which ran contrary to the knowledge D2 had that their work was done both in Europe and the U.S.

A hearing has been set for June 15 for Manafort, prosecutors, witnesses and others to appear and testify on the new order.

Lawyers for Manafort called Mueller’s evidence of witness tampering “thin” and maintained their client’s innocence.

“Mr. Manafort asked no one to provide a false affidavit or false testimony at trial, or perjure themselves, and he has not given — nor offered to give — any potential witness anything in exchange for false testimony,” their response filed in court read.

Photo by Marco Verch via Flickr

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