Mueller Tells Judge That Manafort ‘Brazenly' Broke the Law
(Bloomberg) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller told the judge who’ll sentence President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman that Paul Manafort “brazenly violated the law” for a decade and presents a “grave risk” of committing new crimes.
Manafort, 69, is set to be sentenced on March 13 in Washington, where he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts and faces as much as a decade in prison. That sentencing will come days after he’s sentenced in Alexandria, Virginia, where jurors convicted him of tax- and bank fraud. Prosecutors say Manafort faces as much as 24 years in prison in that case.
“For over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,” Mueller’s prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo unsealed Saturday in federal court in Washington. Mueller is investigating whether anyone in Trump’s campaign conspired with Russians who interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. “The sentence in this case must take into account the gravity of this conduct.”
Manafort engaged in witness tampering while on bail, then went on to lie repeatedly after he pleaded guilty and pledged to help with Mueller’s investigation, according to the filing. After his guilty plea, Manafort “committed the additional crimes of perjury and making false statements.” Mueller hasn’t charged Manafort with those crimes, but U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson can consider that conduct at sentencing.
Conspiring Against the U.S.
As part of his guilty plea, Manafort admitted to conspiring against the U.S. by laundering money, cheating the U.S. out of taxes, failing to file foreign bank account reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying to the Justice Department. In the other count, he also admitted that he conspired to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses.
Manafort worked for pro-Ukrainian politicians and political parties for years, and secretly oversaw an $11 million lobbying campaign, he admitted. He also confessed that he conspired with Konstantin Kilimnik, a translator whom prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence, to tamper with witnesses.
Kilimnik worked for a decade with Manafort in Ukraine. They met several times during and after the campaign, raising Mueller’s suspicions. Prosecutors have focused on how Manafort shared polling data about Trump’s campaign with Kilimnik, as well as on their discussion of a peace plan for Ukraine. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea in 2014, and Russia has sought relief from that punishment.
After his Sept. 14 guilty plea, Manafort participated in a dozen debriefings and two grand jury appearances. But prosecutors told Jackson that he breached that deal by lying, and the judge agreed in a Feb. 13 ruling. Prosecutors said they can’t recommend leniency.
Deceit was fundamental to Manafort’s crimes, prosecutors wrote, and “it extended to tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice National Security Division, the FBI, the Special Counsel’s Office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, members of Congress, and members of the executive branch of the United States government.”
Manafort’s crimes were “bold,” and some “were committed while under a spotlight due to his work as the campaign chairman,” attorneys from the Special Counsel’s office wrote.
From 2006 to 2015, Manafort led a multi-million dollar U.S. lobbying operation at the direction of Ukraine, without registering or providing required public disclosures, prosecutors said. “Secrecy was integral to the effectiveness of the foreign lobbying Manafort orchestrated for Ukraine to influence American leaders and the American public,” they wrote.
That effort involved prominent public relations and law firms, and it would have been the primary emphasis of Manafort’s trial, had it gone forward.
The campaign was designed to improve the image of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions in Europe and the U.S. He hired lobbying firms like the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs LLC to help him, along with several European former elected officials.
Manafort organized the European politicians, known as the Hapsburg Group, to lobby U.S. senators in a campaign to defeat a resolution that criticized Yanukovych’s treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted and imprisoned. Manafort never told the senators that the lobbyists or Hapsburg Group members were paid by Ukraine.
Three Dozen Exhibits
The filing released Saturday includes more than three dozen exhibits that prosecutors would have used at trial. The exhibits include a chart listing $4 million in payments in 2012 to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP by a corporation in Cyprus. In all, the prominent law firm was paid $4.6 million to provide a supposedly independent analysis of Tymoshenko’s prosecution and trial.
Skadden ultimately concluded that the evidence at trial supported her conviction. The exhibits included a memo that painted a different picture of the strength of the Tymoshenko case. It said: “The evidence of criminal intent -- i.e. that she actually intended to commit a crime -- is virtually non-existent.’’ Prosecutors said Manafort was told that by Skadden’s lead partner on the project, Greg Craig, who’s since left the firm.
In January, Skadden agreed to pay $4.6 million as part of a settlement with the Justice Department over work it did with Manafort in Ukraine in 2012 and 2013. The firm said it should have registered as a lobbyist for Ukraine.
Prosecutors said that Manafort knew his legal requirement to register as a lobbyist for Ukraine; his knowledge extended back three decades to when he worked in Washington with Roger Stone, the political strategist and sometime Trump confidant. Stone was indicted by Mueller in January for lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election, obstructing an investigation, and witness tampering. Stone has pleaded not guilty.
Jackson will sentence Manafort after U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III imposes his term in Alexandria. Prosecutors said they’ll reserve the right to ask Jackson to run the two sentences consecutively.
The DC case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). The other case is U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).
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