Manafort Lied About Trump Administration Ties, Mueller Says
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors about his efforts to reach someone in the Trump administration this year while he awaited trial and about his contacts with a business associate who had ties to Russian intelligence, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Manafort misled prosecutors in recent debriefings about his communications and a meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, the associate with ties to Russian intelligence, according to a filing Friday in federal court in Washington by Mueller, who is investigating Russia interference in the 2016 campaign.
He also lied to investigators when he told them that he never tried to communicate a message to anyone in the Trump administration this year, prosecutors wrote. In fact, Manafort authorized someone to speak to an administration official on his behalf on May 26, they wrote. Manafort, 69, was convicted at trial of bank and tax fraud in August. Trump said last month that he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of a pardon.
“The government’s filing in Mr. Manafort’s case says absolutely nothing about the president,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said. “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.”
Prosecutors said that they met 12 times with Manafort and that he testified twice to a grand jury, on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2. Mueller concluded that Manafort had “lied in multiple ways and on multiple occasions,” his prosecutors wrote in the 10-page filing, adding that “these were not instances of mere memory lapses.”
Manafort, an international political consultant, began helping Mueller’s investigation after pleading guilty in Washington on Sept. 14 to avoid a second trial. He admitted he conspired to launder money, commit tax fraud, violate a foreign lobbying law and lie to the Justice Department. He also admitted he conspired with Kilimnik to tamper with witnesses. Kilimnik had spent a decade working in Manafort’s political consulting business in Ukraine.
The case took an unexpected turn on Nov. 26 when Mueller used a court filing to say Manafort had breached his plea deal by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel’s office on “a variety of subject matters.” Manafort’s lawyers said he believed he told the truth. Prosecutors left open the possibility of charging Manafort anew for his lies.
Mueller used the filing on Friday to argue to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Manafort had breached his plea deal, which could have helped him avoid spending the rest of his life in prison. Sections of the filing were blacked out, making it difficult to tell the precise nature of Manafort’s lies.
But prosecutors said that he lied about Kilimnik “over the course of several interviews” and that investigators used electronic communications and travel records to confront Manafort with those falsehoods. Emails and testimony also contradicted Manafort, Mueller said.
Manafort told the special counsel’s office that he never talked to anyone in the Trump administration while they worked there. But the filing said he “had been in communication with a senior administration official” through February of this year, and that on May 26, he authorized a person to speak with an administration official on his behalf.
The filing doesn’t spell out why Manafort wanted to speak with someone who worked for Trump or what message he wanted to deliver.
After his plea agreement, Manafort also provided information to investigators about another Justice Department inquiry that wasn’t spelled out in the filing. In so-called proffer sessions before he pleaded guilty, Manafort gave one version of events about the matter, prosecutors said. He later gave a “different and exculpatory version” of events. He then changed the story again after his defense lawyer showed him notes of his original account, Mueller’s filing said.
Manafort also lied to investigators about a $125,000 wire transfer made on his behalf to a firm that was working for him in 2017, the filing said.
Defense lawyers have until Dec. 12 to tell the judge how they want to proceed and whether they will seek the government’s evidence on the claims. The judge could decide to hold a hearing before she rules on whether Manafort breached his plea deal.
Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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