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Mueller: Manafort lied about contacts with White House


Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors about his contacts with the White House and an associate with suspected ties to Russian intelligence, special counsel Robert Mueller's office said in a filing Friday.

The heavily redacted report filed in the criminal case against Manafort in Washington, D.C., comes more than a week after prosecutors accused the one-time Trump campaign chief of “committing federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel’s office on a variety of subject matters” in breach of his plea agreement.

The report released Friday detailing those claims had been highly anticipated for its potential to shed light on Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, an investigation that has been kept tightly under wraps.

Mueller said in the filing that after signing the plea agreement, Manafort stated he had no direct or indirect communications with anyone in the administration, but evidence demonstrates that Manafort authorized a person to speak on his behalf.

“Separately, according to another Manafort colleague, Manafort said in February 2018 that Manafort had been in communication with a senior administration official up through February 2018,” the special counsel wrote in the 10-page report.

The filing details four topics on which Manafort is alleged to have misled prosecutors. These also include his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian who ran the offshoot of Manafort’s firm in Ukraine and who was charged alongside Manafort with witness tampering earlier this year. An earlier filing from Mueller suggested the FBI believes Konstantin had ties to Russian intelligence in 2016. Kilimnik has remained out of reach of U.S. prosecutors.

In a heavily redacted passage, Mueller’s prosecutors wrote Friday that Manafort lied about an unknown topic that the two discussed. The filing suggests Mueller has electronic evidence and travel records to disprove Manafort’s claims. Additionally, prosecutors say Manafort lied about meeting with Kilimnik and about his role in the alleged conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.

The filing also says that Manafort made “inconsistent statements” to investigators about a $125,000 payment he made to an unnamed firm working for him in 2017.

Finally, prosecutors allege that Manafort misled Justice Department officials working on a separate investigation, that is not described, by providing different versions of events about a subject relevant to the probe before and after his plea agreement.

Mueller said Manafort told “multiple discernible lies” in interviews with the special counsel’s office and the FBI that “were not instances of mere memory lapses.”

“If the defendant contends the government has not acted in good faith, the government is available to prove the false statements at a hearing,” he wrote.

Mueller also said prosecutors met or spoke with Manafort’s defense attorneys several times about how Manafort breached his deal by lying, but said they never argued against their claims.

“In none of the communications with Manafort’s counsel was any factual or legal argument made as to why the government’s assessment of Manafort’s credibility was erroneous or made without good faith,” Mueller said.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee on the federal district court for the District of Columbia, said in court last week that she will likely hold a hearing in mid-to-late January to decide if Manafort breached his plea deal.

Manafort pleaded guilty in September to two felony charges — conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to launder money — and agreed to fully cooperate with Mueller’s probe to avoid a second criminal trial after he was convicted on eight felony counts of tax and bank fraud in a federal court in northern Virginia.

In return, prosecutors agreed to drop five other charges, including failure to register as a foreign lobbyists, making false statements and tampering with witnesses.

Reports that surfaced after the deal broke down last week said Manafort’s attorneys had met with Trump’s personal lawyers and shared details on the investigation, which is said to have inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office.

Speculation has swirled since that Trump could pardon his former campaign chairman. The president has said he hasn’t discussed it but wouldn’t rule it out.

Many had hoped Friday's report would shed light on Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, an investigation that has been kept tightly under wraps.

At 5 p.m. on Friday, District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted Mueller’s request to file the report under seal and ordered a redacted version to be published on the public docket. The public will now have to wait to see the unredacted filings.

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