Manafort Says He Didn’t Break Plea Deal With U.S. by Lying

(Bloomberg) -- Paul Manafort says he didn’t lie and Special Counsel Robert Mueller can’t prove he did.

Mueller claims Manafort lied to prosecutors and the FBI while he was supposed to be cooperating with a probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. As a result, Manafort violated his plea deal, Mueller claims.

Manafort’s filing on Wednesday disputing those claims came just hours before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson oversaw a two-hour hearing behind closed doors. She was scheduled to announce her findings to lawyers in the case, but it’s not clear when the public will learn about the issue first raised by Mueller’s office in November.

“Time to go to the bar,” Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said after the hearing. Instead, he headed to the courthouse cafeteria with another Manafort attorney.

The ruling by the judge, who held a previous closed-door hearing on Feb. 4, will help her decide how harshly she punishes Manafort when she sentences him on March 13.

In heavily redacted court filings and a transcript of the prior hearing, prosecutors argued that Manafort lied about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a translator with whom Manafort worked in Ukraine and who Mueller claims has ties to Russian intelligence. Both men met with Manafort’s former deputy Rick Gates on Aug. 2, 2016, in Manhattan, before each left separately.

Manafort’s attorneys say the meeting at the Grand Havana Room in New York was, at least in part, about a matter involving Ukraine. The filing disclosed an FBI summary of the meeting that said: “Kilimnik talked for about 15 minutes. Manafort told Kilimnik that the idea was crazy and the discussion ended.”

“This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told Jackson during the sealed hearing.

About two weeks after the Grand Havana meeting, Manafort quit the Trump campaign. He was later indicted on felony counts including money laundering, illegal lobbying and bank fraud. An Alexandria, Virginia, federal court jury convicted him on bank- and tax-fraud charges in August. Weeks later, he made his deal with prosecutors to avoid a second trial before Jackson in Washington.

“Mr. Manafort did not lie,” his lawyers told the judge in their submission Wednesday. “Despite the considerable efforts of the Office of the Special Counsel, it cannot prove what did not happen.”

Click here to read the filing in full.

The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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