Prosecutors ramp up foreign lobbying probe in New York
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FILE - In this May 23, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing, in Washington. Spinning off from the special counsel’s Russia probe, prosecutors are ramping up their investigation into foreign lobbying by two major Washington firms that did work for former Trump campaign chairman Manafort, according to people familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

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WASHINGTON • Special counsel Robert Mueller III said Friday that Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, told “multiple discernible lies” during interviews with prosecutors, including about his contacts with an employee who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.

In a document filed in federal court Friday, Mueller also said Manafort lied about his contacts with Trump administration officials after Trump took office. Manafort had told investigators that he had had no direct or indirect contact with White House officials since Trump’s inauguration, but Manafort had been in touch with officials as recently as the spring, according to the filing.

Manafort told a colleague in February — four months after he was indicted — that he was in contact with a senior administration official through that time. And in a text message, he authorized another person to speak with a White House official on May 26.

The text message came two days after Trump received significant publicity for issuing a posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson. Trump has publicly mulled the possibility of pardoning Manafort, which legal experts have said could be influencing Manafort to withhold his full assistance from Mueller.

Key points in the document filed Friday were redacted from public view, making it difficult to gain a full picture of what Manafort was asked in hours of interviews with investigators since September.

As the campaign’s former chairman and a top campaign aide from March to August 2016, Manafort could have been a key firsthand witness for Mueller as the special counsel explores contacts between Trump associates and Russians. But the document illustrates how fully Manafort’s plea deal has unraveled.

Manafort was convicted of tax and bank fraud charges in Virginia in August. He pleaded guilty in September to additional charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States by hiding years of income and failing to disclose lobbying work for a pro-Russian political party and politician in Ukraine.

That plea helped him avoid a second trial in Washington and offered the former Republican operative the hope of some lenience in sentencing — provided he cooperated with prosecutors and provided truthful testimony.

Prosecutors from Mueller’s team informed the judge last week, however, that they believed Manafort had breached the agreement by lying to them repeatedly. Manafort’s lawyers have said that Manafort did not believe he lied or violated the deal.

In the new filing, prosecutors offered to lay out at a future hearing additional documentary evidence to explain how they know Manafort is lying. For now, they explained that Manafort had lied “in numerous ways,” conduct they said should be held against him when he is sentenced in March.

The prosecutors said Manafort has met with special counsel investigators 12 times. At four of those meetings, prosecutors from outside the special counsel’s office attended — a sign that he was questioned in connection with investigations separate from Mueller’s probe. He also testified twice before Mueller’s grand jury.

Prosecutors said Friday that Manafort had told numerous lies in five different aspects of the investigation, including about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm who prosecutors have said has Russian intelligence ties.

Manafort met twice during the campaign with Kilimnik, including in August 2016 in New York City. Kilimnik has told The Washington Post that the two discussed the presidential campaign at the New York meeting.

Much of a section of the filing dealing with Kilimnik was redacted, but prosecutors indicated that they have obtained electronic records, travel documents and other evidence that demonstrate Manafort “lied repeatedly” about his interactions with the Russian aide.

Manafort hired Kilimnik in 2005 to serve as a translator and office manager for the Kiev office of his political consulting business. Kilimnik was a key liaison for Manafort to politicians in Ukraine and to Russian businessmen, notably Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate who had partnered with Manafort on a business deal.

Kilimnik, who is believed to be in Russia, has been charged by Mueller’s office with conspiring with Manafort to obstruct the investigation into Manafort’s work in Ukraine. According to the new filing, Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiring with Kilimnik in an effort to compel witnesses in Mueller’s probe to give false testimony, only to deny it in a post-plea interview, before reversing himself again and conceding that his plea was truthful.

The special counsel also accused Manafort of lying about a $125,000 wire transfer. It is unclear how that transaction relates to the conspiracies detailed in Manafort’s plea agreement, but prosecutors said Manafort lied repeatedly about details of the transaction.

In addition, Manafort has been interviewed in connection with an investigation separate from the one being conducted by the special counsel’s office, according to the court filing. Prosecutors said he has lied in connection with that case as well.

Manafort, 69, who is in jail in Alexandria, Va., is one of five former Trump campaign aides who have pleaded guilty to crimes as part of the special counsel investigation. Trump has distanced himself from his onetime campaign chairman, stressing that Manafort worked for him for only a few months.

But Manafort was present for moments that are important to the Russia investigation. For instance, he attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower arranged by Donald Trump Jr. after the president’s son was told the lawyer would share damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. And he was at Trump’s side in July 2016 as WikiLeaks released thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic Party.

He also has extensive connections to business executives and politicians in the former Soviet Union, because of his years as an international political consultant, particularly because of his work for a Russian-backed president of Ukraine.

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