World / Crime & Legal

Paul Manafort claims he didn't break plea deal with U.S. by lying, challenges Robert Mueller to prove otherwise

Bloomberg

Paul Manafort says he didn’t lie and special counsel Robert Mueller can’t prove he did.

Mueller claims Manafort lied to investigators 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 came just hours before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is scheduled to hold a closed-door hearing when she plans to announce her findings on the issue first raised by Mueller’s office in November. Jackson heard arguments in a sealed proceeding on Feb. 4. The judge’s rulings will shape how harshly she punishes Manafort on March 13.

Prosecutors claim the longtime international political consultant and strategist lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a translator with whom Manafort worked in Ukraine and who Mueller claims has ties to Russian intelligence.

In heavily redacted court filings and a transcript of the Feb. 4 hearing, prosecutors argued Manafort lied about his communications with Kilimnik. Both men met with Manafort’s former deputy, Rick Gates, on Aug. 2, 2016, in Manhattan, before each left separately.

Manafort’s attorneys say that the meeting in the Grand Havana Room involved a matter involving Ukraine. The filing disclosed that 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.

Manafort’s lawyers say prosecutors have no evidence to show that he sought to hide later meetings with Kilimnik about the Ukrainian matter.

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).