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Mueller Claims Manafort Shared Trump Polling Data with Russian Operative in 2016
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8 Jan 2019 06:59 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Paul Manafort (Image source: Screenshot)

 

 

We've all wondered what it was that Robert Mueller had on Paul Manafort. For him to try so hard to get out of the charges and continue to do so even after he copped a plea deal, there had to be something more there that we didn't know about.  

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman had a deadline of midnight Tuesday to respond to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's accusation that he lied during interviews after making his plea deal. Yet the public record of his case in DC District Court had not been updated in weeks.

 

Of the topics Mueller said Manafort was lying about was his "contact with administration officials and his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, who had known ties to Russian military intelligence that was accused of hacking Hillary Clinton. 

While he pleaded guilty and made a deal in September, it seems the reason he clammed up again was with respect to Mueller indicating he had further contact with Kilimnik than we knew.

 

Both Manafort and Kilimnik were charged with obstruction of justice last June after they tried to influence potential witnesses in Manafort's September trial. That was one of the charges the campaign chairman pleaded guilty to when he accepted his plea deal. 

It seems that a court filing inadvertently included details of Manafort's interactions with Kilimnik that weren't intended to be made public. But it could be a key piece of evidence that ties together the Russia investigation, as it shows that the Russians had access to Trump's polling data in 2016.

 

In a court filing on Tuesday Manafort denied that he broke his plea deal by lying to the special counsel's office. In his rebuttal he exposed some of the details of what it's believed he lied about, and much of that content deals with his relationship with Kilimnik, who started working for him in 2005. 

The special counsel accused Manafort of lying "about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign," according to the court filing that was not redacted. It's not clear what his source was for the data.

 

He's also accused of discussing with Kilimnik a Ukrainian peace plan during Trump's 2016 campaign. 

"Manafort 'conceded' that he discussed or may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan with Mr. Kilimnik on more than one occasion," his attorneys quote the special counsel's office as saying. They also report that he " 'acknowledged' that he and Mr. Kilimnik met while they were both in Madrid."

 

Manafort was known to meet with Kilimnik at least twice in the U.S. during the campaign, in May 2016 and again in August. 

While no other details are given about the "Ukrainian peace plan," Michael Cohen said in January 2017 he was given a Russian-friendly peace plan for Ukraine during a meeting at a New York hotel with a Ukrainian lawmaker and Felix Sater, a Trump business associate."

 

The proposal would have led to the U.S. lifting sanctions on Russia, a goal of the Kremlin. Manafort said in 2017 he had "no role" in that exchange. 

Through Manafort's August trial on bank and tax fraud, we know that he was very much in debt when he agreed to chair Trump's campaign for free. In previously reported emails, he wrote to Kilminik and said he hoped to use the campaign to "get whole."

 

Additionally, he asked his associate Kilminik to give private briefings about Trump's campaign to Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, whom Manafort owed money to and who is also known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. A Deripaska spokeswoman said he never received or offered briefings about the campaign. 

In a previous court filing Mueller said Manafort lied about not having contact with the Trump administration after he took office in January 2017.

 

That's believed to be a lie as four months after he was indicted, he told a colleague he was in contact with a senior administration official. He authorized another person to speak with a White House official in a text message. 

But Manafort's attorneys claim that was just a case of the colleague "asking permission to use Mr. Manafort's name as an introduction in the event the third party met the president," and that "does not constitute outreach by Mr. Manafort to the president."

 

Additionally, the attorneys claim the alleged contact with administration officials "is hearsay purportedly offered by an undisclosed third party, and the defense has not been provided with the statement." 

"He was engaged with work related to the presidential campaign," they wrote as a way to excuse the contact, despite the fact Manafort only worked for the campaign for a few short months in the summer of 2016.

 

"Issues and communications related to Ukrainian political events simply were not at the forefront of Mr. Manafort's mind during the period at issue, and it is not surprising at all that Mr. Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed." 

"For several months Mr. Manafort has suffered from severe gout, at times confining him to a wheelchair," wrote the attorneys of their client's time since he was sent to prison in June after the obstruction charge.

 

"He also suffers from depression and anxiety and, due to the facility's visitation regulations, has had very little contact with his family." 

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set a January 25 hearing date for the special counsel to respond to Manafort's defense that was laid out. But Manafort's attorneys believe it can all be dealt with through the sentencing process, since prosecutors have said they won't be filing new charges.

 

Manafort is already looking at a possible 10-year prison sentence for his August conviction on eight charges of bank and tax fraud, and if he is found to have breached the plea deal, he'd lose any sentencing credits accrued. 

He is set to be sentenced for the tax and bank fraud on February 8 in Virginia and on March 5 in the federal case in D.C.

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