Justice Dept lawyer says Manafort may have served as 'back channel' to Russia: report

Justice Dept lawyer says Manafort may have served as 'back channel' to Russia: report
© Camille Fine

A Justice Department lawyer said Thursday that former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Yellen should utilize the resources available before pushing new regulations Huawei paid Tony Podesta 0K for White House lobbying MORE is being investigated as a possible “back channel” to Russia.

At a hearing, federal prosecutors defended special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election, arguing that Mueller did not exceed his authority by indicting Manafort on charges related to his pre-campaign work.

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Michael Dreeben, an attorney for the Justice Department, told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that part of Mueller’s probe into Manafort is investigating whether the former campaign chair provided “back channels” to Russia, according to Bloomberg.

“He had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians,” Dreeben said. “Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things.”

Prosecutors said earlier this month in a court filing that Mueller’s investigation, by nature of investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, would “naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs.”

Manafort is charged on several counts, including money laundering, tax fraud and other financial crimes, related to his and his associate Richard Gates’s lobbying work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Gates has pleaded guilty to two counts and is cooperating with the investigation.

The Justice Department reportedly authorized Mueller to investigate allegations of collusion between Manafort and the Russian government.

Earlier this month, Manafort filed a civil lawsuit attempting to limit the scope of Mueller’s probe, arguing that the special counsel overstepped his boundaries by investigating allegations that arose before his time on the Trump campaign.

Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities on charges related to alleged meddling in the presidential election.