Ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, Russian associate hit with obstruction charges

11 June, 2018, 14:14 | Author: Jason Torres
  • They say the op-ed was part of a public effort Manafort was trying to orchestrate that would have violated a judge's order to refrain from trying his case in the press

The latest obstruction charges bolster Mueller's case by laying out the argument that Manafort had corrupt intent to hide his activities, according to former prosecutors.

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, paving the way for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller who's investigating Russian involvement in the election.

The new indictment came four days after prosecutors said Manafort had tried to contact two witnesses in his money laundering and bank fraud case via Kilimnik to persuade them to make certain representations to investigators.

The latest charges increase Manafort's legal jeopardy if he continues to refuse to co-operate with prosecutors, and could be an effort by Mueller to induce a guilty plea and secure the testimony of a critical campaign adviser to Trump.

Kilimnik, according to court papers, wrote a message to the other executive two days later saying: "Basically P wants to give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the United States, and the goal of the program was European Union".

Manafort lawyers said even the messages cited by prosecutors "are entirely consistent with Mr. Manafort's stated position and repeated assertion of his innocence", that his lobbying was "European-focused" and that he had no idea the two recipients would be called as witnesses.

Almost four months later, in February, the pair was hit with additional tax evasion and bank fraud charges.These charges involved much of the same conduct Manafort and Gates were initially accused of, but the amount of money Manafort said to have laundered through offshore accounts increased to $30 million.

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.

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

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The Epoch Times previously laid out how a select group of Obama-administration officials orchestrated an expansive spy operation against the Trump campaign that included national security letters-a type of secret subpoena-Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants, at least one spy, the unmasking of American citizens in intelligence reports, and spying conducted by foreign intelligence agencies.

Investigators claimed that the "repeated" contacts occurred while Manafort was under house arrest, as a condition of his release pending the trials in Washington and Virginia.

A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.

Mueller has accused Manafort of attempting to call, text and send encrypted messages in February to two people from "The Hapsburg Group", a political discussion group he allegedly worked with to promote the interests of Ukraine, in an effort to influence their testimony or hide evidence in the case. Kilimnik, who prosecutors say lives in Moscow, was not in US custody Friday.

Manafort ran the campaign between June and August 2016.

They said Manafort's "limited communications can not be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness". Manafort has longstanding ties to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.

On Friday, the former campaign manager issued a report denouncing allegations by Robert Mueller that he had tampered with witness evidence. The work is the basis for the criminal case in Washington where Manafort faces charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, money-laundering conspiracy and false statements. His co-defendant Gates pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Emails show that during the middle of the campaign, Manafort told Kilimnik he was willing to provide "private briefings" about Trump's presidential run to a billionaire close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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