A federal judge grilled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team previously this week on its claims that former Trump project manager Paul Manafort purposefully lied to private investigators, according to a freshly released, partially redacted court transcript released Thursday.
Manafort, who prevented a second trial in Washington, D.C., in 2015 by accepting comply with investigators, allegedly lied to district attorneys about 5 separate topics, consisting of Manafort’s contact with administration officials; info “pertinent to another Department of Justice examination,” and a $125,000 wire transfer to a company working for Manafort.
But at the closed-door hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson repeatedly and bluntly pushed district attorneys to explain why Manafort’s misstatements, including some that he fixed willingly, must impact his upcoming sentencing.
The judge, who is also managing the ongoing criminal case versus Trump associate Roger Stone, freely wondered whether prosecutors had bombarded Manafort with a series of tough and unimportant questions throughout the approximately 50 hours of interviews that followed his plea offer.
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” Putting aside whether it has to be developed and whether we have to develop all the elements of [a criminal false statements statute], why is this important?” Jackson asked prosecutors, describing the their claim that Manafort deceived authorities about the nature of the $125,000 wire transfer.
Kevin Downing, attorney for Paul Manafort leaves Federal District Court after a court hearing for Manafort in Washington, Friday, Jan. 25,2019 Judge Amy Berman Jackson has scheduled a sealed proceeding to figure out whether the previous Trump project chairman intentionally lied to investigators. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana).
Manafort has rejected deliberately deceptive Mueller’s team and said he is under tension and physically ill. The previous Trump campaign chairman declared variously that the cash was owed to him as a loan payment, income and repayment.
The funds were sent in 2017 through a political action committee that spent millions to help Trump’s candidacy.
” I mean, essentially what you’re stating is, you were just inquiring about something and it turned– it grew out of control into a series of false statements,” Jackson stated. “But existed something about his– if I concur with you that he was lying about that, that was material to what you were doing? What was the significance of asking him about the payment in the very first place?”
Jackson later informed Manafort’s lawyers she wasn’t completely convinced by their argument that his “succession of inconsistent descriptions” might be chalked up to confusion caused by accounting practices, including that “there’s some aspects of the evidence I’m going to require to re-review.”
At the hearing, prosecutors preserved that Manafort also lied about his interactions with Russian-Ukrainian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik, who has ties to Russian intelligence. District attorneys said Manafort made incorrect declarations about sharing ballot data throughout the 2016 presidential election with Kilimnik.
Top Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann told Jackson that Manafort’s connections to Kilimnik “goes, I believe, quite to the heart of what the Special Counsel’s Office is examining. … In [August] 2016 there is an in-person conference with somebody who … is understood by the FBI, examined to be– have a relationship with Russian intelligence.”
Jackson acknowledged that Manafort, after pleading guilty to conspiring with Kilimnik, provided an “exculpatory variation of Kilimnik’s state of mind” that “isn’t necessarily constant with what one would call complete and forthright cooperation.”
But, she added, Manafort rapidly corrected a few of his declarations on the matter, damaging prosecutors’ claims that Manafort had actually acted intentionally to deceive them.
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” Offered [Manafort’s] correction after consultation with counsel, why would this be something that we would characterize as the crime of making a purposefully incorrect statement to the FBI, or even just a law of significance for acceptance of duty in sentencing functions?” Jackson asked.
FILE – In this May 23, 2018, image, Paul Manafort, Presiden Trump’s previous project chairman, leaves Federal District Court after a hearing in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana).
After Weissman underscored the amazing nature of Manafort’s in-person conference with Kilimnik, Jackson once again stated it was unclear why that would be a focus of Mueller’s questions.
” So, I’m attempting to determine what the significance is of his continuous work for a possible prospect in the Ukraine at that time is, and the significance of any lies about that, or lies about Kilimnik’s knowledge about that,” Jackson stated.
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Although much of Weissman’s action is redacted, Jackson stated she found his response “handy”– however the judge went on to question prosecutors even more, after the defense group slammed the federal government’s theories about the significance of Manafort’s moving declarations on Kilimnik as mere “guesswork.”
” So, I don’t believe the Court requires to reach that issue, and I do not understand that we have actually provided proof on the– that issue,” Weissman says, after a partly redacted concern from Jackson.
That reply drew a curt action from the judge.
” You didn’t. So you just don’t desire me to consider it, that’s alright,” Jackson stated, prompting Weissman to quickly embark on a longer description.
Once Again, at the end of his partly redacted reply, Jackson sounded a note of obvious doubt as to the importance of Manafort’s alleged misstatement.
” So, this is a crucial falsehood due to the fact that it was incorrect?” Jackson asked. ” Or exists some bigger reason why this is essential?”
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Towards the end of the proceeding, Jackson took particular umbrage at district attorneys’ contention that Manafort had lied about his contacts with the Trump administration.
” And of all of them, this is the one where I have one of the most difficulty finding out where the genuine contradiction is of minute to the investigation,” Jackson stated.
Manafort’s ” outreach appears to have actually been two people outside the administration who themselves would have contacts within,” Jackson said. “So, again, I desire you to indicate the particular statement in a 302 [FBI witness report] or a grand jury statement that is the precise question and answer you believe I must signify as false. And, you know, it does appear to be that there are indications that he might have bragged that he still had actually sway or used to assist individuals or to lobby. However do we have direct proof of contacts that oppose a denial of a contact?”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s group has strongly pursued criminal charges versus a number of previous top Trump aides, however none of the charges have involved criminal collusion with Russia. (AP).
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At that point, a member of Mueller’s team responded that Manafort had actually lied by rejecting having any direct or “indirect” contacts with the administration– and that the “indirect” declaration was a lie.
But the district attorney, Greg Andres, began his reaction by acknowledging the judge’s vital tone.
” Provided that you have concerns with it, I drew the short straw,” Andres said.
The Mueller deputy is no complete stranger to harsh criticisms from the bench. Last August, during Manafort’s very first trial in Virginia, Judge T.S. Ellis implicated Andres of weeping.
” I understand how frustrated you are. In reality, there’s tears in your eyes right now,” Ellis stated. (When Andres rejected Ellis’ claim, the judge stated, “Well, they’re watery.”)
Manafort’s sentencing on two felony charges related to his Ukrainian lobbying is set for March, when Jackson will determine whether his penalty needs to be impacted by his supposed incorrect declarations. Manafort confronts ten years in jail in the different case in Virginia, where he was founded guilty on tax and fraud charges.
Prior to adjourning, Jackson took an obvious shot at Mueller’s team and said she valued Manafort’s presence, having actually denied his effort to avoid the hearing due to the fact that of logistical concerns and what he states are health challenges.
” I believe it was really practical, extremely helpful and extremely important for you to have been here, Mr. Manafort,” Jackson stated. ” I know that we have actually had hearings where counsel sought to decrease the problem on you and not have you be here, however this has to do with you, it’s not about them. And I believe it’s extremely crucial that they have you readily available to ask concerns to.”
Previously this month, Iowa Republican politician Sen. Chuck Grassley said he anticipates the Mueller probe to produce its final report “within a month.”
Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.