Mueller Suspects Manafort Gave 2016 Polling Data to Russian
(Bloomberg) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team suspects that Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman, shared polling data on the 2016 election with an associate tied to Russian intelligence and lied about it, according to a court filing by Manafort’s lawyers.
The filing was badly redacted, allowing an unintended glimpse at previously undisclosed areas of Mueller’s investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign worked with Russia to influence the election. Those areas included the polling data as well as a meeting in Madrid and discussions of a Ukrainian peace plan.
Mueller has claimed that Manafort, a political consultant, lied about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, who served as a translator and fixer on campaigns in Ukraine for a decade. Kilimnik has denied any ties to Russian intelligence.
Manafort’s lawyers wrote in an improperly redacted portion of the brief that prosecutors said he lied about “sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign.”
The disclosure suggests that one part of Mueller’s probe is focusing on whether Kilimnik may have served as a back channel through Manafort to Russia during the election. Manafort and President Donald Trump have long denied any collusion with Russians.
Manafort’s lawyers said their client didn’t intentionally mislead investigators during a dozen debriefings after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate.
Mueller claimed on Nov. 26 that Manafort breached that September plea deal and committed crimes by lying to the FBI and the special counsel’s office on “a variety of subject matters.” Manafort’s lawyers said that during his debriefings and two grand jury appearances, he “provided complete and truthful information to the best of his ability.”
In the public portion of the 10-page document, filed in Washington federal court, Manafort’s lawyers wrote that their client couldn’t remember or incorrectly recalled specific events from his past dealings with Kilimnik.
Four redacted portions of the filing, including two dealing with Kilimnik, are visible when pasted into a Microsoft Word document.
“It is not surprising at all that Mr. Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed,” according to one portion of the filing that was blacked out.
Another segment that was supposed to be redacted said prosecutors asserted that Manafort “conceded” he may have discussed a Ukrainian peace plan with Kilimnik on more than one occasion. During a proffer meeting with prosecutors on Sept. 11, Manafort told investigators “he would have given the Ukrainian peace plan more thought” had he not been working on Trump’s campaign at the time.
Prosecutors said that “after being told that Mr. Kilimnik had traveled to Madrid on the same day that Mr. Manafort was in Madrid, Mr. Manafort ‘acknowledged’ that he and Mr. Kilimnik met” there, according to the filing.
“The simple fact that Mr. Manafort could not recall, or incorrectly recalled, specific events from his past dealings with Mr. Kilimnik -- but often (after being shown or told about relevant documents or other evidence) corrected himself or clarified his responses – does not support a determination that he intentionally lied,” according to Manafort’s lawyers.
Manafort met Kiliminik in Madrid in January or February 2017, according to Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni. He declined further comment on the filing.
The lawyers said that Manafort “provided complete and truthful information to the best of his ability,” and that he “attempted to live up to the requirements of his cooperation agreement and provided meaningful cooperation relating to several key areas under current government investigation.”
The lawyers disputed any improper outreach to the Trump administration. The lawyers denied Mueller’s claim that Manafort lied about a text exchange on May 26, 2018. In one portion that was redacted, they said the text related to a “message from a third-party asking permission to use Mr. Manafort’s name as an introduction in the event the third-party met the president.”
That text “does not constitute outreach by Mr. Manafort to the president,” according to the filing.
Manafort, 69, has been in jail since June 15, when U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered him locked up after Mueller accused him and Kilimnik of witness tampering. Manafort, who has been in solitary confinement, has suffered for several months from severe gout, according to the filing. He’s also suffering from depression and anxiety, it said.
Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller when he admitted to two conspiracy counts in Washington on Sept. 14, a month after jurors convicted him in Virginia of tax and bank fraud. By pleading guilty, Manafort avoided a second trial on charges that he failed to disclose lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government, and that he laundered money.
Jackson has scheduled Manafort’s sentencing for March 5, but the judge said she first wanted to determine whether he did breach the plea agreement. She may hold a hearing on Jan. 25 to determine whether Manafort breached his plea agreement by lying.
The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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