KGOU

Feds Detail What They Call Lies Told By Paul Manafort Since His Guilty Plea

5 hours ago
Originally published on December 7, 2018 8:45 pm

Updated at 9:45 p.m. ET

Paul Manafort allegedly lied to prosecutors about his communications with officials in the Trump administration, "information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation" and more, the government said in a court filing on Friday.

Manafort met with prosecutors 12 times and testified twice before a grand jury, the Justice Department said.

During that time, prosecutors say Manafort didn't tell the truth about key topics even though he had agreed to cooperate with the government in any way it wanted as part of his guilty plea.

The disclosures by special counsel Robert Mueller raise significant new questions about Manafort's motivations and his contacts with senior Trump administration officials even after he was indicted on several felony charges.

Manafort's statements "were not instances of mere memory lapses," prosecutors wrote. "If the defendant contends the government has not acted in good faith, the government is able to prove the false statements at a hearing."

Manafort's attorneys said in an earlier court filing that he has given the government useful information. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced on March 5.

The alleged false statements

Prosecutors say Manafort made false statements about five major topics. They include his associate Konstantin Kilimnik, with whom he faced charges for alleged witness tampering; Kilimnik's role in that alleged crime; and a wire transfer to a company working for Manafort.

Prosecutors have asserted in other court materials that Kilimnik has links to Russia's intelligence services.

The fourth area is not spelled out — the government alludes only to "information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation" — and the fifth involves Manafort's contacts with officials in the Trump administration.

Authorities say Manafort sought to distance himself from the White House and other officials after he inked a plea deal. But they uncovered a text exchange in May 2018 between someone Manafort had authorized to speak on his behalf and an unnamed official. Moreover, prosecutors wrote, Manafort himself maintained contact with a "senior Administration official" through February 2018. They found still more contacts after they reviewed Manafort's electronic documents.

The New York Times recently reported that even as Manafort had been cooperating with the special counsel's office, his attorney had been briefing an attorney for President Trump.

That arrangement, although unusual, evidently isn't illegal, and it enabled Trump's lawyers to get a sense about the operations of Mueller's team. The special counsel's office, for its part, now contends that Manafort's denials about contacting people in the administration were among multiple false statements that void his plea deal.

Mueller's office is investigating whether anyone in Trump's campaign conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election. Manafort ran that campaign for part of the year and had many contacts with powerful Eastern Europeans as part of his earlier political consulting business.

There is so far no allegation, however, that Manafort or anyone else with the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians who attacked the election. Trump posted on Twitter on Friday, evidently responding to the evening's headlines, that he has been vindicated.

Later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "The government's filing in Mr. Manafort's case says absolutely nothing about the President. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues. Once again, the media is trying to create a story where there isn't one."

A significant portion of the special counsel filing is either under seal or redacted. It's not clear when those secret passages will become public.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It has been a busy day for the special counsel's Russia investigation. This evening, documents in the case of President Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen were filed in a New York federal court. The documents offer more information about the crimes the government says Cohen has committed. We also have new documents from the special counsel about the president's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is here in the studio to walk us through both these filings. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, let's start with Michael Cohen. A couple documents here from the government today describe in more detail about why Cohen is expecting to head to prison. Tell us what we're learning.

JOHNSON: There is a lot in these materials. First, federal prosecutors in Manhattan say Michael Cohen actually deserves a substantial prison sentence. They say that he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1, who happens to be the president...

CHANG: Right.

JOHNSON: ...In an ongoing campaign finance probe of payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Those are two women who allegedly had personal relationships with Donald Trump and receive payments in the course of the campaign. The prosecutors in New York also say Michael Cohen consulted with Donald Trump about meetings in Moscow, part of a highly lucrative Trump Tower Moscow deal that never came to fruition. Authorities also reveal that Cohen was approached as far back as 2015 by an unnamed Russian who was offering political synergy with Michael Cohen.

CHANG: Political synergy.

JOHNSON: Yeah.

CHANG: (Laughter).

JOHNSON: Now, we got a second document shortly thereafter from the special counsel. It is very intriguing. The special counsel says Cohen met with them seven times, that he provided useful information on Russia matters that are core to their investigation. He got that information apparently through regular contact with company executives at the Trump Organization during the campaign and that Michael Cohen also talked with the special counsel about his contacts with people tied to the White House in 2017 and 2018 and that when he got questions from Congress about Russia, he circulated his responses to a whole bunch of people before he sent them. He now says those responses were false, so the question is, who got them, and were they encouraging him to lie?

CHANG: Right. Now, the president has already responded in his favorite way, Twitter, of course. What has President Trump said about all of this?

JOHNSON: You know, President Trump has been out with a couple of lines on Twitter. He said, totally clears the president - thank you. The White House - Sarah Sanders, press secretary, followed up with more detail later. Sanders said the government's filings in Michael Cohen's case tell us nothing of value that wasn't already known. Michael Cohen has repeatedly lied, and as the prosecution has pointed out in court, Michael Cohen is no hero.

CHANG: OK, we also received another document today, this one about Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Tell us what's in there.

JOHNSON: Ailsa, this is the story of a relationship gone bad.

CHANG: (Laughter).

JOHNSON: Remember that Paul Manafort...

CHANG: Oh, yes.

JOHNSON: ...Agreed to plead guilty in September and cooperate with the special counsel.

CHANG: Yes.

JOHNSON: It turns out he met with prosecutors 12 times. He actually testified twice before the grand jury. But authorities now say Paul Manafort lied and lied and lied again. He lied about his business associate who allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence. He lied about a wire transfer. And they say he also lied about another unspecified Justice Department investigation that's ongoing. And maybe most important, Paul Manafort, they say, lied about his contacts with administration officials, that Paul Manafort himself was in touch with a senior administration official as late as February 2018 and that he authorized somebody else on his behalf to be in touch with other administration officials as of May 26, 2018. The question is, what were they talking about?

CHANG: Yeah.

JOHNSON: Remember.

CHANG: No details on the content of the communications.

JOHNSON: No details.

CHANG: OK.

JOHNSON: No details, a lot still under seal on - in this case. But remember; Paul Manafort had been maybe expecting a presidential pardon. The question now...

CHANG: Right.

JOHNSON: ...Is were they discussing that? President Trump recently told reporters a pardon was not off the table for Paul Manafort, so we're going to be looking for more information about that moving forward.

CHANG: OK, so, you know, give me the big picture here. Do we know where these investigations are headed next based on what's happened today?

JOHNSON: Well, this - the ball is in the court of a couple of judges. Michael Cohen is going to be sentenced in New York later this month. Authorities say he - he's still working with the special counsel. And Paul Manafort won't be punished, won't be sentenced until early 2019, but we may have a hearing coming up about how exactly he lied and may have violated the plea deal. It's important to note as a matter of fairness that Paul Manafort says he believes he told the truth, and he believes he cooperated. So we may have a public hearing in court about whether or not he did all these lies that the special counsel says.

CHANG: All right, lots more to come. That's NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thanks so much, Carrie.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.