Manafort disputes Mueller accusations that he lied

Defense attorneys for Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortTrial of ex-Obama White House counsel suddenly postponed Top Mueller probe prosecutor to join Georgetown Law as lecturer DOJ releases notes from official Bruce Ohr's Russia probe interviews MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE’s onetime campaign chairman, say special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE has not proved their client intentionally lied to federal prosecutors.

Mueller’s team laid out evidence of Manafort’s alleged lies in a detailed filing last week, which included a 31-page declaration from an FBI special agent who participated in interviews with Manafort.

Manafort's attorneys said Mueller's team has submitted more than 800 pages of exhibits. The redacted public filing Mueller submitted last week was accompanied by 157 exhibits. The rest of the evidence was filed under seal.

“Indeed, many of these events occurred years ago, or during a high-pressure U.S. presidential campaign he managed when his time was extraordinarily limited, or during the difficult time that followed his departure from the 2016 presidential campaign because of the allegations leveled at him and the investigations that followed,” they argued in a 10-page partly redacted filing on Wednesday, much of which rehashed what has already been argued.

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Mueller has accused Manafort of lying to investigators on a range of subjects in breach of his plea agreement, including his contacts with Trump administration officials and his interactions and meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik, his former business associate who is suspected of ties to Russian intelligence, during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Manafort’s attorneys refuted Mueller’s claim that he made false statements about Kilimnik’s role in a conspiracy to tamper with witnesses, saying he was only giving Kilimnik’s stated view regarding the witness tampering charges.

Manafort’s attorneys also alleged that Mueller misread events referenced in text messages that the special counsel referenced as evidence that Manafort lied to investigators about his contacts with the administration.

“Mr. Manafort did not make any contact with anyone and the messages do not suggest otherwise,” Manafort’s attorneys said.

The fact that there were relatively few issues identified based on more than 12 proffer and interview sessions, they argued, only further demonstrates Manafort did not intentionally lie.

Wednesday’s filing represents the latest flashpoint in Manafort’s case, which has been surrounded by high drama since the special counsel accused him of lying to investigators last November — abruptly ending more than two months of cooperation with the investigation.

In a major filing error earlier this month, Manafort’s attorneys inadvertently revealed that Mueller has accused Manafort of lying about sharing polling data with Kilimnik related to the campaign. The revelations triggered fresh debate in Washington about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow, which Trump has vehemently denied.

While Manafort’s attorneys have repeatedly denied that he intentionally lied to prosecutors, they have not explicitly asked the judge to decide whether the allegations are enough to prove he breached the deal he made with prosecutors to avoid a second criminal trial.

The parties, however, are scheduled to will appear in court on Friday. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee on the federal district court in D.C., said she wants to discuss how to proceed with the case, but that the parties should also come prepared to discuss the question of whether the material that has been submitted shows that Manafort intentionally provided false information in connection with any of the five subject matters in which Mueller claims lies were told.

She said arguments on the merits of that dispute could be heard in either open court or a sealed proceeding.

In a subsequent filing Wednesday, Manafort’s attorneys notified Jackson that Manafort has waived his right to appear at Friday’s hearing and asked that he not be transported to court.

“Mr. Manafort waives his right to appear because of the time involved in having the U.S. Marshals Service transport him to court,” the filing said.

But in short order, Jackson denied their request to transport Manafort to court. 

"Given the number of court appearances defendant has been permitted to waive, the significance of the issues at stake, and the fact that his being available to consult with counsel may reduce the likelihood that the defense position with respect to the issues discussed will change after the hearing, defendant's motion is denied without prejudice to future motions" she said. 

Manafort was initially ensnared in Mueller’s investigation as a result of his foreign lobbying on behalf of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud over the summer in a separate case in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Virginia before agreeing to plead guilty to two conspiracy charges in D.C. and cooperate in the probe.

He will be sentenced in Virginia on Feb. 8 and is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced in D.C. on March 5.