Manafort Judge Finds His Lies Violated Mueller Plea Deal
(Bloomberg) -- Paul Manafort broke his plea deal by repeatedly lying to prosecutors after he agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a judge ruled Wednesday.
His misrepresentations touched on areas of central interest to Mueller’s prosecutors. Manafort lied about his contacts with a Russian translator, Konstantin Kilimnik, who Mueller says has ties to Russian intelligence services, the judge concluded. Some of the contacts with Kilimnik came while Manafort was running President Donald Trump’s campaign, and some occurred after Trump’s election, according to prosecutors.
Manafort also lied about the nature of a $125,000 payment to a law firm and about a matter under a separate Department of Justice investigation, according to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington. Jackson’s ruling came more than two months after prosecutors first said Manafort breached his plea deal by repeatedly lying on five subjects.
The ruling doesn’t bode well for Manafort, 69, when he stands before Jackson for sentencing on March 13 for pleading guilty to two conspiracy counts. Manafort faces as many as 10 years in prison, and Jackson may still conclude that he no longer deserves any leniency for attempting to cooperate in a dozen debriefings on a wide range of topics.
But the ruling wasn’t all bad news for Manafort. Jackson ruled that Mueller’s prosecutors failed to prove that Manafort intentionally made false statements about Kilimnik’s role in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. Manafort pleaded guilty to that charge, and Kilimnik was indicted for it. The judge also said prosecutors failed to prove that Manafort lied about his contacts with the Trump administration.
Jackson made her ruling after two hearings in a sealed courtroom, including one earlier on Wednesday. She said she’ll release a redacted transcript of the Wednesday session by Friday morning.
At the earlier hearing, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said that Manafort’s meeting with Kilimnik on Aug. 2, 2016, at the Grand Havana Room in New York goes “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”
The judge, whose ruling will help her decide how harshly she punishes Manafort, said she wouldn’t settle at this time whether he should get credit for his acceptance of responsibility when she sentences him. Jackson said she’ll wait for further reports and arguments from the two sides.
In a filing Wednesday before the hearing, Manafort said he never lied to prosecutors. At a hearing earlier this month, his lawyer Richard Westling said he “did his best to answer the questions. He did not lie in any way,” according to a transcript of the session.
Westling and another defense attorney, Kevin Downing, didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the judge’s ruling.
Mueller’s prosecutors, who are investigating whether anyone in the Trump campaign conspired with Russians, have charged more than 30 people. Kilimnik worked with Manafort and Manafort’s former right-hand man, Rick Gates, for a decade on political campaigns for pro-Kremlin political parties and politicians. Gates has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
Aside from the case before Jackson, Manafort faces a separate sentencing in Alexandria, Virginia, where a jury convicted him of bank- and tax-fraud charges.
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