Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Indictment accuses Manafort of witness tampering

Indictment accuses Manafort of witness tampering

The case ratchets up pressure on President Trump's former campaign chairman as he tries to stay out of jail while awaiting trial, reports the Washington Post. According to a Washington court filing earlier this week, Manafort contacted Kilimnik recently to get his help to influence two unnamed people - said to be European-based public relations consultants - in their testimony to Mueller on the so-called Hapsburg Group.

In the late Friday filing, Manafort's lawyers said the special counsel's allegations of witness tampering "conjures a sinister plot" to persuade associates to perjure themselves, but disputes that the evidence provided establishes any tampering.

"The indictment serves a strategic objective in raising public awareness about the connections that those who worked on Trump's campaign had with Russians, and it serves a legal goal by putting more pressure on Manafort to become a cooperating witness", the story says.

Both were charged in a District of Columbia federal court with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice when they allegedly sought to make contact with two witnesses earlier this year.

The witnesses told investigators that they "understood" that Manafort was reaching out to influence the testimony, according to court papers.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's latest indictment is significant beyond the new charges, in that it links senior officials on President Donald Trump's presidential campaign to Russian intelligence in a criminal matter.

In the days that followed and through April, Manafort and Kilimnik suggested the two witnesses who worked on the Hapsburg group project say the group focused on Europe and "never lobbied in the United States", according to an encrypted message between Kilimnik and one witness that prosecutors obtained.

Manafort's lawyers filed a response Friday that "the Special Counsel contrives dubious allegations".

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort one focus of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election hides behind his car visor as he leaves his home in Alexandria Virginia U.S. O
Robert Mueller slaps obstruction charges on Paul Manafort

In previous filings, the special counsel had indicated that Kilimnik, who began working with Manafort in 2005 for the political party of Ukraine's pro-Russia former president, Viktor Yanukovych, had ties to Russian intelligence.

The government has not charged Manafort with the crime of witness-tampering or obstruction of justice. He also has denied being connected to Russian intelligence agencies.

Paul Manafort leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C. on February 28, 2018.

It was the third time Mueller had added to charges against Manafort.

According to the witnesses, Manafort and Kilimnik appeared to be pressuring them to say the Hapsburg group only worked in Europe, when they knew that they had been secretly paid to lobby in the U.S. Several of the politicians involved have denied any wrongdoing. Kilimnik, who prosecutors say lives in Moscow, was not in USA custody Friday. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to a raft of charges, from money-laundering, to failing to register as a foreign agent, to bank and tax fraud.

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". Among other things, Manafort and former co-defendant Richard Gates were accused of paying former senior European politicians to take pro-Ukrainian stances.

He was described as the intermediary through which Manafort volunteered to brief his onetime client, aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, about the Trump campaign.

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