Mueller Hits Manafort With Additional Charges in Russia Probe

11 June, 2018, 14:12 | Author: Bert Pena
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Ken Vogel gives us the New York Times take on the superseding indictment of Paul Manafort alleging obstruction of justice.

But in a biting, nine-page filing Friday evening, Manafort's attorneys denied the allegations and accused Special Counsel Robert Mueller III's team of conjuring up "a sinister plot" from a scant record of telephone calls and de-encrypted texts.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, one focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, hides behind a vehicle visor as he leaves his home in Alexandria, Va., after being asked to surrender to federal authorities.

In addition to Manafort, a longtime business associate whom the special counsel has identified as a former Russian intelligence officer - Konstantin Kilimnik - has also been charged in this new round.

The latest charges increase Manafort's legal jeopardy if he continues an aggressive battle 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". The spokesman, Jason Maloni, said that Manafort and his attorneys were reviewing the new charges.

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. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and is expected to go on trial in Washington, D.C., on September 17.

Kilimnik also faces those charges of obstruction and conspiracy to obstruct.

Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence asset, is now under the protection of Moscow and unlikely to ever see an American court room.

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In reality, according to court documents, the group was working at Manafort's direction and in the pay of the Ukrainian government.

As previously reported "FACTS", the court rejected Manafort a request to remove one of the charges.

In Friday's indictment, Mueller accused Kilimnik of taking part in the covert lobbying scheme, and in trying to influence potential witnesses. Kilimnik has denied such ties.

Along with his former business associate Rick Gates, Manafort was initially indicted in October 2017 on multiple counts that included: conspiracy against the USA, conspiracy to launder money, false statements and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Yet Manafort and the public relations people had brought the Hapsburg group to the USA to speak with members of Congress about the interests of Viktor Yanukovych, a former Ukrainian president who had jailed a political rival, while posing as independent voices, prosecutors said earlier this week.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has scheduled a hearing for June 15 at which she ordered Manafort, prosecutors and witnesses to appear to deal with the alleged witness-tampering. "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".

Asked on Friday if he would pardon Manafort, Trump refused to answer.

Manafort and Kilimnik worked together on behalf of the former government of Ukraine, prosecutors say.

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