Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

Manafort's Russia meeting at heart of probe

Mueller alleges Manafort continued work related to Ukraine despite 2017 indictment Manafort May Have Lied to Boost Chance at Pardon, Mueller Says
Jeannette Daniel | 10 February, 2019, 15:31

The transcript from a sealed hearing in Paul Manafort's case provides further insight into what special counsel Robert Mueller considers significant in his wide-ranging probe of the Kremlin's efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election and the ties between Trump associates and Russian Federation. The transcript of the hearing, which took place Monday, was released by court order Thursday, but much of it was redacted to protect the ongoing investigation, including several key portions about Manafort and Kilimnik.

What is known about Manafort's interactions with Kilimnik came into fuller view in January, when defense attorneys for Manafort inadvertently revealed that their client stands accused of sharing polling data with Kilimnik, a suspected former Russian intelligence officer, according to court documents filed publicly in Washington, D.C.

Manafort's lawyers have countered that any discrepancies were unintentional as he refreshed his memory or recalled specific details in his sessions with investigators and a grand jury. "That meeting and what happened at that meeting is of significance to the special counsel".

Mueller is investigating whether there was collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation, which USA intelligence agencies charge mounted an influence operation to sway the vote to Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

In addition to the August 2, 2016 meeting, which took place at the Grand Havana Club, a cigar bar in Manhattan, Manafort and Kilimnik also discussed the Ukraine-related issue in December 2016 and twice in early 2017, according to the transcript.

Andrew Weissmann, one of the prosecutors on Mueller's team, told the judge that Manafort's alleged lies about his meetings with Kilimnik were significant because they related to "what we think is going on, and what we think the motive here is".

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If a judge determines Manafort lied after his plea, it could affect the sentencing he would receive after his admission that he conspired to defraud the United States, violate lobbying laws and obstruct justice in connection with years of undisclosed work for a pro-Russian political party and Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych. It makes clear that prosecutors have homed in on the repeated contacts between Manafort and his longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the Federal Bureau of Investigation says has ties to Russia's military intelligence agency.

And even The Daily Caller's Chuck Ross, a frequent critic of the Russia investigation, pointed out Thursday that the meeting with Kilimnick Weissman referenced was on August 2 - a month after Manafort sent a Kilimnick an email offering private briefings to Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort was reportedly in debt.

Jackson's ruling could affect Manafort's sentencing on two felony charges stemming from illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian interests.

At the hearing, Weissmann also said that prosecutors believe that Manafort was lying about a $125,000 payment.

A previous court filing revealed that in one of his meetings with Kilimnick, Manafort provided him with polling data, indicating the meeting was directly related to the election. Trump told the New York Post at the time.

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