Prosecutors want Cohen in prison for 42 months
Mueller filing is warning to future witnesses
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.
Much of the report about Paul Manafort was kept under seal.