Pros­e­cu­tors want Co­hen in prison for 42 months

Mueller fil­ing is warn­ing to fu­ture wit­nesses

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Bart Jansen

De­spite Michael Co­hen’s co­op­er­a­tion, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said in court fil­ings that Co­hen should serve “a sub­stan­tial prison term” for try­ing to buy the si­lence of two women and tax eva­sion.

WASHINGTON – Paul Manafort, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, lied to pros­e­cu­tors re­peat­edly de­spite his plea deal to co­op­er­ate, ac­cord­ing to a fil­ing Fri­day from Jus­tice Depart­ment spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

The lies cov­ered Manafort’s in­ter­ac­tions with Kon­stantin Kil­imnik, a Rus­sian na­tional also un­der in­dict­ment; a $125,000 wire trans­fer and his con­tacts with Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to the 10-page fil­ing.

“As sum­ma­rized above, in his in­ter­views with the spe­cial coun­sel’s of­fice and the FBI, Manafort told mul­ti­ple dis­cernible lies – these were not in­stances of mere mem­ory lapses,” ac­cord­ing to Mueller’s fil­ing.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amy Ber­man Jack­son de­cided Fri­day to al­low Mueller to file some de­tails about the lies un­der seal. The ac­cu­sa­tions about Kil­imnik are largely blacked out.

But even the redacted ver­sion stated that Manafort lied about a $125,000 pay­ment made to­ward a debt in­curred by Manafort. The debt and the firms in­volved aren’t de­scribed.

Af­ter sign­ing his plea agree­ment, Manafort told pros­e­cu­tors that he had no di­rect or in­di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tions with any­one in the ad­min­is­tra­tion while they were in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing.

But “the ev­i­dence demon­strates that Manafort lied about his con­tacts,” the fil­ing said. For ex­am­ple, Manafort au­tho­rized a per­son May 26, 2018, to speak with an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial on his be­half. Doc­u­ments re­vealed other con­tacts.

Ter­ree Bow­ers, a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney in Los An­ge­les now in pri­vate prac­tice at Arent Fox, said keep­ing the fil­ing un­der seal is part of Mueller’s clas­si­cal in­ves­tiga­tive ap­proach of start­ing with sub­or­di­nates then mov­ing higher up the chain of com­mand.

“It sug­gests that the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the doc­u­ment, if not all of it, is con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion that they don’t want out at this point in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Bow­ers said.

Be­cause Manafort has a joint de­fense agree­ment with Trump, the move could also limit what is shared with the pres­i­dent, Bow­ers said.

“Given the al­le­ga­tions that Manafort’s lawyers have been re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion to Trump and his lawyers, they have to be some­what con­cerned about re­veal­ing var­i­ous le­gal the­o­ries and what they have left to pur­sue fac­tu­ally,” Bow­ers said. “Even the ex­act ar­eas where they think Manafort has lied would be in­valu­able for Trump and oth­ers to know at this point.”

Mueller voided the plea agree­ment Nov. 26 be­cause of how Manafort tried to mis­lead pros­e­cu­tors in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. The shock­ing move lost Manafort a chance at a shorter prison term, but also cost Mueller a highly placed wit­ness.

In re­veal­ing the col­lapse of the plea deal, Mueller sig­naled that he had learned enough dur­ing his 18-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine that Manafort was ly­ing. The move also served as a warn­ing to other wit­nesses: Don’t lie.

Mueller and his team still have the co­op­er­a­tion of Manafort’s top deputy, Rick Gates; Trump’s for­mer per­sonal lawyer, Michael Co­hen, and for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Michael Flynn.

But Manafort was a key fig­ure in the Rus­sia in­quiry. He was Trump’s cam­paign man­ager from March until Au­gust of 2016, dur­ing a cru­cial part of the cam­paign when Trump se­cured the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion and the GOP held its con­ven­tion in Cleve­land.

A jury con­victed Manafort of eight bank and tax charges in Au­gust for rep­re­sent­ing a pro-Rus­sia fac­tion in Ukraine.

But he’s also a tainted wit­ness af­ter plead­ing guilty in Septem­ber to con­spir­ing to ob­struct jus­tice, for urg­ing other wit­nesses to pro­vide in­ac­cu­rate ac­counts to in­ves­ti­ga­tors while he was in cus­tody.

SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE

Much of the re­port about Paul Manafort was kept un­der seal.

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