Mueller filing lays out evidence of Manafort’s alleged lies
Federal prosecutors on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team on Tuesday filed detailed accounts from the FBI of how President Trump’s one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort allegedly lied to investigators in violation of his plea agreement.
The filing includes a memo signed by FBI special agent Jeffrey Weiland, who participated in a dozen proffer sessions with Manafort in September and October, while he was cooperating in Mueller’s investigation. The document said Manafort also twice testified before a grand jury.
Mueller’s team released a 31-page memo signed by Weiland and 157 pages of evidence, much of which is redacted. It cites text messages, emails and tax documents as evidence that Manafort lied about various topics in the course of his meetings with government officials.
The filing comes nearly two months after Mueller accused Manafort of lying in breach of his plea agreement. Manafort’s attorneys last week contested the accusations, saying their client told the truth “to the best of his ability” and did not deliberately lie to investigators. They suggested his time in jail had affected his mental and physical wellbeing.
Manafort was ensnared in Mueller’s investigation on charges related to his foreign lobbying. The former Trump campaign aide agreed to cooperate in the probe into Russian interference and potential coordination between the campaign and Moscow in September, before his plea deal collapsed.
The special counsel has accused Manafort of making false statements about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former business associate suspected of ties to Russian intelligence; Kilimnik’s involvement in a witness tampering scheme; Manafort’s contacts with the administration; a $125,000 payment made to a company working for Manafort; and a separate Justice Department investigation.
FBI agents said in Tuesday’s filing that Manafort gave multiple explanations for the $125,000 payment made in June 2017.
The document also says that prosecutors possess “documentary evidence” that Manafort made false statements when he denied having direct or indirect contacts with Trump administration officials. This includes a May 26, 2018, text message exchange in which an unnamed third party asked Manafort, “If I see POTUS one on one next week am I ok to remind him of our relationship?” It says Manafort responded by saying, “[y]es” and “[e]ven if not one on one.”
The document also says that Richard Gates, Manafort’s onetime business partner and a former Trump campaign aide, told investigators in debriefings that Manafort informed him he was using “intermediaries” to “get people appointed in the administration.” The intermediaries are not named.
“Evidence demonstrates that Manafort had contacts, and tried to have contacts, through others, with the Administration,” the document says. The document appears to say that Manafort testified before the grand jury about his administration contacts, but that portion is heavily redacted.
The FBI official in his declaration said that Manafort gave shifting explanations about his contacts with Kilimnik as well as his role in efforts to obstruct the investigation. The section about Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnik is heavily redacted, stating that Manafort gave “various accounts” of his communications with him about an unknown subject “over the course of several interviews and in the grand jury.”
Another section says Manafort gave different versions of events surrounding an incident in another DOJ investigation.
“One version that was more incriminating was given prior to signing the plea agreement (on Sept. 13, 2018) and another that was more benign was made after on Oct. 5, 2018 after his plea deal,” agents said. “When confronted with the inconsistency by the government and his own counsel, Manafort largely redacted the second version.”
Manafort’s defense team made a major error last week when they filed redacted court documents that did not shield the information from the public.
By copying and pasting the blacked-out portions into a new file, reporters were able to see that Mueller had accused Manafort of sharing polling data during the 2016 presidential campaign with Kilimnik.
The error also revealed that an unnamed third party texted Manafort last May to ask permission to use Manafort’s name as a point of introduction if the person met with Trump.
Manafort’s defense team has not yet requested a hearing to settle the dispute over whether the plea deal has been breached. Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the federal district court in Washington, D.C. has set a tentative hearing for Jan. 25.
Lydia Wheeler contributed to this report.