National Security

Manafort suspected of sharing polling data with associate linked to Russian intelligence

A major court filing error led to secret details of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s criminal case leaking out into the public sphere on Tuesday.

Defense attorneys filed a response contesting special counsel Robert Mueller’s allegations that Manafort lied to federal investigators on a variety of subjects, in breach of his plea agreement. But while portions of the filing were supposed to be redacted and shielded from the public, court watchers were able to view the filing in its entirety by copying and pasting the redacted sections.

{mosads}The error resulted in Manafort’s attorneys disclosing that Mueller has accused Manafort of sharing polling data during the 2016 presidential campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate who is suspected of ties to Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU.

The filing also showed that Mueller accused Manafort of discussing a “Ukraine peace plan” with Kilimnik and meeting with him in Madrid at some point during the 2016 campaign.

Manafort’s attorneys appeared to acknowledge that the contacts occurred, writing that their client was unable to recall “specific details” about them before having his “recollection refreshed” by the special counsel.

“The same is true with regard to the Government’s allegation that Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign,” they wrote.

Mueller had previously accused Manafort of lying about his interactions with Kilimnik, a Russian national who used to run the offshoot of Manafort’s consulting business in Ukraine. Kilimnik has been charged alongside Manafort with witness tampering as part of Mueller’s sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and is believed to have links to the GRU, the Russian intelligence unit blamed for hacking Democrats’ emails in 2016.

In another faultily redacted portion, Manafort’s attorneys revealed that an unnamed third party texted Manafort last May asking to use his name as a point of introduction if the person met with Trump.

Mueller accused Manafort in December of authorizing a third party to communicate on his behalf with an “administration official,” despite him telling investigators he did not recall direct or indirect communications with administration officials. Manafort’s attorneys disputed the characterization that Manafort authorized the unnamed person to communicate with Trump on his behalf, according to the concealed details of the filing.

Manafort’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the filing error.

The special counsel’s office also declined to comment on the revelations resulting from the redaction errors in the initial filing from Manafort’s attorneys.

Within an hour of its initial release, a new, corrected filing was posted on the docket that no longer allowed the public to view the contents of the redacted paragraphs.

Tuesday’s developments are the latest dramatic turn of events in Manafort’s case, more than a year after Mueller first charged him with a series of crimes stemming from his lobbying on behalf of a pro-Russian oligarch and political party in Ukraine.

A jury in Alexandria, Va., convicted Manafort on charges of bank and tax fraud in August, after which he agreed to plead guilty to two separate charges and cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. As a result, Manafort averted a second federal trial in D.C.

Manafort was viewed as a valuable witness for Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the election until his plea deal broke down in November as a result of the lying accusations.

On Tuesday, Manafort’s attorneys argued that their client did not intentionally mislead government prosecutors, describing his physical and mental well-being as severely impacted by his months of confinement in federal prison. Manafort provided “complete and truthful information to the best of his ability,” the lawyers wrote in the 10-page filing.

“He attempted to live up to the requirements of his cooperation agreement and provided meaningful cooperation relating to several key areas under current government investigation,” the attorneys wrote.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge overseeing Manafort’s case in D.C., has ordered Mueller’s team to submit its factual and evidentiary basis of Manafort’s alleged lies by Jan. 14. Manafort’s attorneys have been ordered to reply by Jan. 19.

A hearing has been tentatively scheduled on the matter for Jan. 25 if the judge deems it necessary, though Manafort’s attorneys did not request one in the filing Tuesday.

Manafort is expected to be sentenced in Virginia on Feb. 8 and separately in D.C. on March 5.

– Updated at 4:41 p.m.

Tags court filing Manafort case Paul Manafort Robert Mueller Special Counsel investigation

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