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Mueller brings new charges against Paul Manafort

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortManafort to be sentenced in Virginia in February Former FBI agent sentenced to 4 years in jail for leaking to reporter The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE has been hit with new charges filed by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's office.

Mueller filed a superseding indictment Friday in a D.C. court that brought two new counts against Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort aide.

The two new counts, which layer onto five previously issued charges, accuse Manafort and Kilimnik, who ran the Kiev office of Manafort’s political consulting company Davis Manafort Partners, of obstructing justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. 

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The obstruction charges are related to Manafort and Kilimnik’s efforts to coach — or even “prevent” — the testimonies of two witnesses involved in the case, according to prosecutors.

Manafort and Kilimnik “knowingly and intentionally attempted to persuade” two people with “intent to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding,” according to the new court filing.
 
Kilimnik had previously been mentioned, but not named, in court documents as "Person A" with ties to Russian intelligence. 

In March, documents filed by Mueller's team had alleged that Manafort and his longtime business associate Richard Gates were aware that an unidentified associate "was a former Russian Intelligence Officer.”

While the documents at the time only described this individual in question as "Person A,” new stories reported that this associate matched the description of Kilimnik, a longtime Russian employee of Manafort’s. 

The court filings accuse Manafort, Gates and Kilimnik of engaging “in a multimillion dollar lobbying campaign” at the direction of Viktor Yanukovych, the former Russia-aligned Ukrainian president from 2006 until 2014.

The allegations concern events that took place years before Manafort joined the Trump campaign.

The indictment says Manafort and his associates sought to have top European politicians “take positions favorable to Ukraine” when lobbying the U.S., “secretly” paying them for such efforts.

“The plan was for the former politicians, informally called the ‘Hapsburg group,’ to appear to be providing their independent assessments of Government of Ukraine actions, when in fact the were paid lobbyists for Ukraine,” the court document reads.

Manafort allegedly used at least four offshore bank accounts to pay this group of politicians for their Ukraine campaign, wiring more than 2 million euros, according to court documents.

Manafort allegedly wrote an “EYES ONLY” memorandum in 2012 explaining that they are trying to “assemble a small group of high-level European highly influencial champions and politically credible friends who can act informally and without any visible relationship with the Government of Ukraine.”

An unidentified former European chancellor, who led the Hapsburg Group, coordinated with Manafort, Gates and Kilimnik, as they lobbied officials in the Obama administration and members of Congress, according to the documents.

Several individuals with ties to Manafort are cooperating with Mueller’s team, including Gates and  Manafort’s former son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai.

Legal experts told The Hill earlier this year that the special counsel was strategically building up the pressure against Manafort by getting Gates, his longtime associate, to cooperate with Mueller’s team. Manafort, who oversaw the Trump campaign for three months during the 2016 presidential campaign, is still battling the special counsel’s team in court.

Mueller has filed dozens of charges against Manafort over the course of his yearlong probe. Mueller first indicted Gates and Manafort on 12 counts in his original indictment, before slapping on 23 additional charges in late February.

Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni, when asked for a statement, responded: “Same as always.”

Prior to this indictment, Maloni has repeatedly maintained that Manafort is innocent and that “he is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges.”

The filing comes after reports that Manafort attempted to influence two former colleagues’ testimony to Mueller.

Mueller asked a court earlier this week to revoke Manafort’s pretrial conditions over attempted witness tampering.

The five previous charges include illegal foreign lobbying, money laundering, as well as lying to federal investigators.