Unredacted Manafort filing hints at Russian Federation collusion

Minnie Murray
January 11, 2019

I was focused yesterday on the indictment of Natalia Veselnitskaya and only considered briefly the apparently inadvertent disclosures by Paul Manafort's lawyers concerning their client's contacts with a business associate with ties to Russian intelligence.

The filing contains new details about his connection to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian business associate who was indicted a year ago on charges he tampered with potential witnesses.

In its filing, the defence was trying to rebut allegations that Manafort intentionally lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's team after he had agreed, last September, to co-operate with Mueller's investigation as well as plead guilty to charges of conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The filing says a May 26, 2018, text message exchange with Manafort involved an unidentified "third party" who was asking permission to name-drop Manafort if the person met with Mr Trump.

In their Tuesday submission to the court, Manafort's lawyers said his inconsistencies when he spoke to prosecutors were honest mistakes.

The disclosure suggests that one part of Mueller's probe is focusing on whether Kilimnik may have served as a back channel through Manafort to Russian Federation during the election.

The former Trump campaign chief's lawyers said their client has been suffering from gout, anxiety and depression and that he never purposely lied to them during his 12 interview sessions with the special counsel and other prosecutors.

According to the unredacted versions posted online, the blacked-out sections showed that Manafort has been accused by Mueller of lying about his sharing of polling data on the 2016 campaign with Kilimnik.

"The defense contests the government's conclusion [that Manafort lied] and contends that any alleged misstatements, to the extent they occurred at all, were not intentional", his lawyers said. While it is unknown if the 2016 polling data was related to the Trump campaign, the fact that Manafort was the chairman of the Trump campaign during 2016, certainly doesn't bode well for those still denying that there was no collusion between the campaign and Russian Federation.

Manafort had previously said "he did not believe that he had any direct or indirect communications" with any officials while they served in the administration.

Prosecutors also accused Manafort of telling a witness he "had contact" with another administration official. "This does not constitute outreach by Mr. Manafort to the President", a redacted line in the filing claims, while another redacted sentence says another identified interaction is "hearsay purportedly offered by an undisclosed third party".

Tuesday's developments are the latest dramatic turn of events in Manafort's case, more than a year after Mueller first charged him with a series of crimes stemming from his lobbying on behalf of a pro-Russian oligarch and political party in Ukraine. Kilimnik, who has ties to Russian intelligence, was indicted in June.

She may hold a hearing on January 25 to determine whether Manafort breached his plea agreement by lying. Manafort "lied in multiple ways and on multiple occasions", prosecutors wrote, saying "these were not instances of mere memory lapses". Manafort was convicted by a jury in a Virginia federal court for eight tax and bank fraud charges.

Manafort has always been in the crosshairs of the Mueller team, having been charged early on in the Russian Federation investigation.

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