Paul Manafort filing from Mueller to be largely secret

Posted at 5:53 PM, Dec 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-07 17:53:52-05

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s description of Paul Manafort’s breach of his plea agreement will largely be secret, a federal judge said on Friday.

According to an update from the court, the special counsel’s office is filing its brief under seal about how and why Manafort lied during his cooperation sessions.

A redacted version of the document and prosecutors’ reasons for keeping it under seal would be made available later, the judge said.

A redacted document is expected to be filed Friday evening.

The special counsel’s office last week accused Manafort of lying during his interviews, saying that his actions during his cooperation were criminal and breached his plea agreement.

The filing is the first time prosecutors have summarized why and how they believe Manafort breached his plea agreement. Previously, the prosecutors simply told a federal judge Manafort “committed federal crimes by lying” to the FBI and special counsel’s office during his cooperation interviews “on a variety of subject matters.”

Manafort says he has been truthful over several meetings with the special counsel’s office. His lawyers indicated last week that they may challenge the assertion that he lied.

What Manafort knows

Sketches from Paul Manafort’s Hearing 10/19/2018

The details of what happened during Manafort’s cooperation interviews with the special counsel have been one of the most intensely pursued questions of the Russia probe — from what Manafort knows, to what happened in recent weeks. Even President Donald Trump’s lawyers have tried to stay in the loop regarding what he and Mueller’s team spoke about.

Manafort had long been considered the key to several questions central to Mueller’s investigation into Russia and the 2016 campaign.

Manafort attended the June 2016 campaign meeting at Trump Tower with Russians who had offered the campaign information on Hillary Clinton. His tenure on the campaign coincided with the Russian hackers’ efforts to steal Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails and distribute them publicly. He also led the campaign through the Republican National Convention, when the party decided to soften its stance on US assistance to Ukraine against Russian-backed militias.

At first last year, Mueller charged Manafort with crimes unrelated to his work as chairman of the Trump campaign.

But it later became clear the special counsel sought documents and information about Russians Manafort knew, including his longtime colleague Konstantin Kilimnik, whom Mueller charged with witness tampering this June and has accused of working with the Russian military intelligence service allegedly behind the DNC hack, and the oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort owed millions and allegedly offered private briefings about the Trump campaign.

Prosecutors have also looked for records Manafort may have had that showed possible campaign finance violations such as illegal contributions made from foreign nationals, according to search warrants of his condo.

Manafort’s financial fraud trial centered around millions of dollars he earned doing Ukrainian political consulting years ago. Yet his trial on those charges veered toward his role on the Trump campaign when prosecutors alleged he used his proximity to Trump to secure a multi-million-dollar loan from a banker interested in being secretary of the Army or another top administration role.

What’s to come

The failure of Manafort’s cooperation could lead to more criminal charges, prosecutors have said. It also sets into motion a schedule that will lead up to his sentencing.

Manafort is now set to be the sixth Mueller defendant to face sentencing.

Both former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the federal government and will be sentenced separately in the next two weeks.

Three other less-high-profile defendants earned between two weeks and 6 months in prison.

Manafort is scheduled to receive his first sentence, for eight financial convictions decided by a Virginia jury, in early February.

His second sentencing date, before the judge who’s handling the breach of his plea agreement, is tentatively set for early March.

For the two charges he currently faces in DC federal court, Manafort could receive 17 to 22 years in prison, his plea agreement says.

He has been in jail in Virginia since June. The last time Manafort was seen in public he entered court in a wheelchair, with a foot bandaged, apparently suffering from an illness similar to gout. That was about two months ago.