Mueller Cancels Plea Agreement with Paul Manafort

U.S.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of lying to investigators. Those lies, Mueller says, are the reason his team has cancelled a plea agreement made with Manafort last September.

The lies relate to five specific areas: interactions Manafort had with Konstantin Kilimnik, Kilimnik’s role in the obstruction of justice investigation being conducted by Mueller, a wire-transfer Manafort made to a firm that was working for him, information related to an unidentified Department of Justice investigation and Manafort’s contacts with Trump Administration officials.

Konstantin Kilimnik is a Russian businessman who has been a close associate of Manafort’s for some time.

In February Mueller’s team brought charges against Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan for lying to the FBI about contacts he had with Kilimnik and Manafort aide, and former Trump campaign official, Rick Gates. Van der Zwaan recorded phone calls he had with Gates and Kilimnik in the fall of 2016 but then deleted or did not otherwise produce emails about the conversations to Mueller’s team after they asked him for them.

Van der Zwaan was sentenced in April to thirty days in prison and ordered to pay $20,000 in fines.

It has also been reported that in 2016 Manafort offered, through Kilimnik, to provide “private briefings” about the status of the Trump campaign to Oleg Deripaska, a wealthy Russian oligarch and close associate of Vladimir Putin. Manafort says those briefings never took place.

U.S. authorities also believe Kilimnik is a former member of the Russian military intelligence service known as the GRU. Kilimnik has denied any role with the service.

Mueller’s team alleges that Manafort lied about interactions with Kilimnik. The court filing in which they lay out these accusations is heavily redacted but they reveal that investigators have evidence of those interactions, including electronic communications and travel records.

Investigators also claim that Kilimnik participated in a conspiracy to get two witnesses to “tailor their testimony to a false narrative” that would exonerate Manafort from a Foreign Agents Registration Act violation.

Investigators accuse Manafort of making a $125,000 payment to a firm that worked for Manafort in 2017 and providing information about another DOJ investigation that contradicted an earlier version he provided investigators prior to his pleading guilty and signing the cooperation agreement. The details surrounding that separate investigation are redacted and remain classified.

But perhaps most damaging to the Trump administration is that investigators accuse Manafort of violating his plea agreement by communicating with members of the administration. Manafort had told Mueller’s team that he communicated with Trump officials either before they worked for the administration or after they left it.

Investigators say those statements are false.

“The evidence demonstrates that Manafort lied about his contacts…For instance, in a text exchange from May 26, 2018, Manafort authorized a person to speak with an Administration official on Manafort’s behalf. Separately…Manafort said in February 2018 that Manafort had been in communication with a senior Administration official up through February 2018. A review of documents recovered from a search of Manafort’s electronic documents demonstrates additional contacts with Administration officials,” they say.

The White House however was quick to downplay any implications that President Trump was involved in any wrongdoing.

“The government’s filing in Mr. Manafort’s case says absolutely nothing about the President,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement. “It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues. Once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn’t one.”

Manafort is currently facing between 17 and 22 years in prison for the charges he is facing in the Mueller investigations as well as charges in a separate lawsuit in Virginia for a variety of financial crimes, including tax fraud. The sentencing dates for the lawsuits are March and February respectively.

Photo by The White House via Wikimedia Commons

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