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Manafort lied about Trump administration ties, Mueller says
[NEW YORK] Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors about his contacts with a business associate who had ties to Russian intelligence and about his efforts to reach someone in the Trump administration this year while he awaited trial, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mr Manafort misled prosecutors in recent debriefings about his communications and a meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, the associate with ties to Russian intelligence, according to Mr Mueller's filing Friday in federal court in Washington.
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, Mr Manafort authorised someone to speak to an administration official on his behalf on May 26, they wrote. Mr Manafort, 69, was convicted at trial of bank and tax fraud in August. Mr Trump said last month that he hadn't ruled out the possibility of a pardon.
Prosecutors said they met 12 times with Mr Manafort and that he testified twice to a grand jury, on Oct 26 and Nov 2. Mr 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."
Mr Manafort, an international political consultant, began helping Mr 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 Mr Kilimnik to tamper with witnesses. Mr Kilimnik had spent a decade working in Mr Manafort's political consulting business in Ukraine.
The case took an unexpected turn on Nov 26 when Mr Mueller used a court filing to say Mr 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." Mr Manafort's lawyers said he believed he told the truth. Prosecutors left open the possibility of charging Mr Manafort anew for his lies.
Mr Mueller used the filing on Friday to argue to US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Mr 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 Mr Kilimnik "over the course of several interviews" and that investigators used electronic communications and travel records to confront Mr Manafort with those falsehoods. Emails and testimony also contradicted Mr Manafort, Mr Mueller said.
Mr 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 authorised a person to speak with an administration official on his behalf.
The filing doesn't spell out why Mr Manafort wanted to speak with someone who worked for Mr Trump or what message he wanted to deliver.