Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Manafort's lawyers say Mueller's new charges are based on 'thinnest of evidence'

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 FILE The charges do no relate to Manafort’s work on the Trump campaign
Lisa Bryan | 11 June, 2018, 14:13

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is calling newly filed obstruction charges "dubious allegations". They said nothing governing the terms of their client's pretrial release prevents him from having contact with anyone, that the apps, which encrypt messages, that Manafort used are commonplace and that he'd asked no one to produce a false affidavit or false testimony at trial.

On Friday, Trump also dismissed any talk of pardoning Manafort or his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who is under investigation by federal prosecutors in NY.

The indictment charges both men with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice related to contacts they had with two witnesses earlier this year.

The special counsel's team alleged one witness told investigators that Manafort wanted them to commit perjury about a lobbying effort they worked on for him in the United States.

This is how Vogel puts it in the third paragraph of his story: "The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has not publicly sought to connect Mr. Kilimnik or Mr. Manafort to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but Friday's indictment of Mr. Kilimnik could carry symbolic significance nonetheless".

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 USA", according to an encrypted message between Kilimnik and one witness that prosecutors obtained. Kilimnik was considered by investigators to have been involved trying to set this up, according to The Washington Post last September.

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.

Prosecutors have previously said Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence, which he denies. The group's lobbying work included advocacy on behalf of Yanukovych in Washington, D.C., with members of Congress and officials in the executive branch.


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

Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence asset, is now under the protection of Moscow and unlikely to ever see an American court room. For Manafort, the charges came just before his attorneys argued that he should be allowed to be freed from home confinement on bond pending his trial, scheduled for next month in Alexandria, Va. The individuals shared communications with prosecutors, the government said. Neither does the alleged obstruction of justice in connection with the previously pending charges. Kilimnik has denied such ties and characterized himself as "a random casualty because of my proximity to" Manafort.

The judge in Manafort's case rebuked Mueller's team during a hearing in early May, saying that the prosecutors are more interested in taking down Trump than securing a conviction against Manafort.

Manafort worked with a lobbying firm that enlisted former European politicians, the so-called Hapsburg group, who wrote articles and addressed USA politicians.

The president has consistently downplayed Manafort's role in this campaign leading up to his general election victory in 2016. Manafort has longstanding ties to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.

On Friday, Trump wouldn't rule out pardoning Manafort.

On Friday, the former campaign manager issued a report denouncing allegations by Robert Mueller that he had tampered with witness evidence.

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