Robert Mueller's Latest Indictment Bolsters His Case Against Trump Campaign Chair

11 June, 2018, 14:11 | Author: Edward Snyder
  • New charges filed against Paul Manafort in Russia probe

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has added charges for obstruction of justice to the indictment of Paul Manafort on Friday.

The new charges accuse Manafort of "repeatedly" contacting two anonymous people who may be witnesses against him.

The indictment, filed by Mueller in District of Columbia federal court, added Konstantin Kilimnik as a defendant and charged both men with obstructing justice in their attempts to tamper with witnesses about their lobbying work for Ukraine.

They could also be an effort by Mueller to induce a guilty plea and secure the testimony of a critical campaign adviser to Trump. Manafort's lawyers had been given a deadline of Friday to respond to those charges.

However, Manafort hit back at what he called a dubious plot meant to corruptly persuade his former business associates to perjure themselves at the upcoming trial in September.

A judge is set to hear arguments on June 15.

Mueller also accused Manafort of secretly paying former European politicians to lobby on behalf of Ukraine.

The office of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted Russians before in its Russia investigation, but so far none of them have been extradited to face the charges inside the United States.

They said Kilimnik may have reported to Russian intelligence officers in Moscow or Kiev or both on his work at the International Republican Institute office in Moscow where he was employed for a decade to 2005 and later on his work for Manafort in Ukraine. The indictment marked the first charges for Manafort's associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is believed to be in Moscow and probably safe from arrest because Russian Federation does not extradite its citizens.

Paul Manafort President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman leaves the federal courthouse in Washington
Paul Manafort President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman leaves the federal courthouse in Washington

The latest Manafort indictment comes as President Trump and his top attorney, Rudy Giuliani, continue to attack the Mueller investigation, blasting it as a partisan "witch hunt". One of the witnesses in touch with Manafort this year told prosecutors he believed Manafort wanted to "suborn perjury", the previous filing said.

Manafort messaged and called one of the witnesses shortly after he and business partner Rick Gates were indicted past year on a slew of charges related to their Ukrainian political activities, according to court papers.

Manafort's attorneys countered that prosecutors presented "scant proof" - mostly "irrelevant, innocuous" texts, and one completed phone call of five attempts that lasted one minute and 24 seconds.

The obstruction charges come just a week before Manafort is scheduled for a key hearing to determine whether he can remain free pending his trial in Washington on existing federal charges of money laundering and fraud. "Closer scrutiny of this 'evidence" reveals that the Special Counsel's allegations are without merit because Mr. Manafort's limited communications can not be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness".

Kilimnik wasn't identified by name in the March filing but Bloomberg has confirmed it referred to him.

On Friday, Trump wouldn't rule out pardoning Manafort.

Kilimnik has denied to journalists that he has any connection to Russian intelligence. The deal was the subject of a long-running legal dispute, with Deripaska claiming Manafort had defrauded him.

The president has consistently downplayed Manafort's role in this campaign leading up to his general election victory in 2016.

Information for this article was contributed by Chad Day, Eric Tucker and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press; by Kenneth P. Vogel of The New York Times; and by Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post.




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