WASHINGTON (AP) — The special counsel in the Russia investigation (witchhunt) is accusing Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort of violating his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to federal investigators, an uncommon allegation that could result in a lengthier prison sentence — and potentially fresh criminal charges.
The torpedoing of Manafort’s plea deal, revealed in a court filing Monday, also results in special counsel Mueller’s team losing a cooperating witness from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who was present during numerous key episodes under investigation. That includes a Trump Tower confab involving Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian attorney believed to have derogatory information on Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton.
The move signals a return to the bitter relationship Manafort has had with the special counsel’s team since his indictment in 2017. Before his plea agreement, Manafort aggressively challenged the special counsel’s legitimacy in court, went through a rancorous trial and wound up in jail after prosecutors discovered that he tried to tamper with witnesses in the case.
In the latest filing, Mueller’s team said Mr. Manafort “committed federal crimes” by lying about “a variety of subject matters” even after he agreed to truthfully cooperate with the investigation. Prosecutors said they will detail the “nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies” in writing at a later date to the judge.
Through his attorneys, Manafort denied the new allegations, saying he “believes he provided truthful information” throughout sessions with Mueller’s office. He also disagreed that he breached terms of his plea agreement. Still, both sides conclude that they can’t resolve the conflict, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson should set a date for sentencing.
Manafort, who remains in jail, had been meeting with the special counsel’s office since his September plea of guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He cut that deal to avoid a second trial after being convicted last summer on 8 felony counts related to millions of dollars he tried to hide from the IRS in offshore accounts.
Both cases arose from his Ukrainian political work and undisclosed lobbying work he confessed to carrying out in the U.S. in violation of federal law.
As part of his plea, Manafort pledged to “cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly” with the government “in any and all matters” prosecutors found necessary. That included his work on Trump’s campaign as well as his Ukrainian political assignment, which remains under investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Prosecutors there are investigating the conduct of longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig and former Republican congressman and lobbyist Vin Weber to determine whether they violated federal law by failing to register as foreign agents with the Justice Department. None of the men has been charged with any crimes.
As part of his plea deal, Manafort also forfeited many of his rights as well as his ability to withdraw the plea if he broke any of the terms. In return, prosecutors agreed to not bring additional charges against him and to ask a judge for a reduction of his sentence if he provided “substantial assistance.”
But with prosecutors saying he breached the agreement, Manafort now faces serious repercussions such as the possibility of prosecution on additional charges including the 10 felony counts prosecutors dropped when he made the deal.
Manafort already faces up to five years in prison on the two charges in his plea agreement. In his separate Virginia case, Manafort’s potential sentencing under federal guidelines has not yet been calculated, but prosecutors have previously said he could face as much as 10 years in prison on those charges.
He is scheduled to be sentenced in that case in February. His co-defendant, Rick Gates, who spent a longer time on the campaign and worked on the Trump inaugural committee, has not had a sentencing date set yet. He continues to cooperate with Mueller.
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Read the court filing: http://apne.ws/YN2AwkK