Mueller: Manafort worked with alleged Russian agent even after criminal charges

  16 January 2019    Read: 1127
  Mueller: Manafort worked with alleged Russian agent even after criminal charges

Paul Manafort and an alleged Russian intelligence operative began hatching a plan for the future of Ukraine during the 2016 presidential election campaign and continued even after Manafort was criminally charged, prosecutors indicated on Tuesday.

The office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, said in a new court filing that Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik communicated between August 2016 and March 2018 about a topic that Mueller’s team blacked out from public view.

But an exhibit included with the heavily redacted court filing showed that Manafort worked on a Microsoft Word document titled “new initiative for peace” in February 2018 as part of his continuing discussions with Kilimnik.

Attorneys for Manafort, 69, revealed in a separate court filing last week that he stands accused by Mueller of discussing a “Ukraine peace plan” with Kilimnik “on more than one occasion” – and then lying about it when questioned by investigators.

The allegations, if confirmed, would mean that Donald Trump’s campaign chief was working on a plan to settle Russia’s conflict with Ukraine on terms favourable for the Kremlin while the Russian government was interfering in the 2016 US election to help Trump.

US intelligence chiefs concluded that the Russian interference operation was ordered by Vladimir Putin to benefit Trump’s campaign and harm Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent. Mueller is investigating whether Trump associates were involved in the Russian activities.

Kilimnik, 48, trained at a university connected to Russia’s military intelligence agency, formerly known as the GRU, which allegedly spearheaded the Kremlin’s effort to disrupt the 2016 election.

Mueller has previously said that Kilimnik was described as “a former Russian intelligence officer with the GRU” by Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy on the Trump campaign. Kilimnik denies that he worked for Russian intelligence.

Manafort and Gates were indicted on financial crimes in October 2017 in Washington and for further offences in Virginia in February 2018. Gates struck a plea deal with Mueller’s team. Manafort was convicted in Virginia on eight counts and later pleaded guilty to charges in Washington.

The filing by Mueller’s team on Tuesday was intended to support its allegations that Manafort lied about several subjects even after he pleaded guilty and began cooperating with the investigation. The alleged lies prompted Mueller to tear up a deal that promised Manafort favourable treatment when he is sentenced.

Manafort’s attorneys deny that he intentionally lied. They blamed his false statements on a failure to recall certain details and his lack of access in jail to records that could jog his memory.

Mueller alleges that Manafort lied when he said he had no communication with members of Trump’s administration after they entered office in January 2017. Tuesday’s filing said Gates told investigators Manafort boasted that month that he was getting people “appointed in the administration” via an intermediary.

On 28 May 2018, according to Tuesday’s filing, Manafort was sent a text message by an associate, who asked: “If I see POTUS one on one next week am I ok to remind him of our relationship?” Manafort allegedly replied: “Yes” and “even if not one on one”.

Manafort joined Trump’s campaign at the end of March 2016 and was promoted to campaign chairman that May. Following revelations that he received millions of dollars in illicit funds from Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin former president, the campaign announced on 19 August 2016 that Manafort was leaving.

Mueller’s team said on Tuesday that Manafort and Kilimnik discussed the Ukraine peace plan in person and in messages from 2 August 2016. Kilimnik has previously said the pair met in New York around that date.

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