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By Tom Winter, Ken Dilanian and Rich Schapiro
President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to federal investigators about his contacts with Trump administration officials, as well as his interactions with a Russian associate who prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence, the special counsel’s office said Friday.
Manafort, after agreeing to cooperate in the Russia probe, misled Robert Mueller’s investigators about his contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, according to a sentencing memo. The details of Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnik, a political operative, were mostly redacted in the court documents.
Manafort also lied to the special counsel’s office when he claimed that Kilimnik, who has been charged with obstruction of justice, played no role in an effort to coerce witness testimony after Manafort was indicted last year, the memo says.
Mueller’s office gave no recommendation on a prison sentence for Manafort, 69, who prosecutors say broke a plea deal by lying to the FBI and the special counsel’s team.
The memo filed Friday said Manafort told the special counsel’s office multiple lies, including that he only spoke with certain people before or after they worked in the Trump administration.
“The evidence demonstrates that Manafort lied about his contacts,” according to the memo.
The court papers refer to a May 26 text exchange in which Manafort authorized an unidentified person to speak with an administration official on the former Trump campaign chairman’s behalf. Mueller’s office also said a colleague of Manafort’s told investigators that Manafort himself said that he had been in contact with a senior administration official up through February 2018.
The memo says Manafort had 12 meetings with the FBI and Mueller’s team. Manafort’s false statements were “not instances of mere memory lapses,” according to the court filing.
“If the defendant contends that the government has not acted in good faith, the government is available to prove the false statements at a hearing,” says the memo.
Mueller’s office said Manafort also told lies related to an unspecified Justice Department probe. The special counsel provided few details, saying only that Manafort changed his account multiple times after initially implicating himself in the matter being investigated.
Following the release of the memo, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declared that it says “absolutely nothing about the president.” “It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues,” Sanders said. “Once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn’t one.”
Mueller’s office told a court last month that Manafort, who had pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges related to his lobbying work for Ukrainian politicians, torpedoed his deal by lying to investigators about a “variety of subject matters.”
Manafort’s lawyers offered a different take, saying he provided truthful information to federal investigators and lived up to his terms of the agreement.
A longtime GOP operative known for his dapper suits and deep ties to Russia, Manafort suffered a precipitous fall in the past year.
In August, a Virginia federal court jury convicted him of eight counts mostly related to bank and tax fraud in what was the first public test of the special counsel’s investigation. The jury deadlocked on 10 other counts but the result still carried severe consequences for Manafort who was facing at least seven years in prison on the eight counts.
Prosecutors had built a case that Manafort for years hid millions from U.S. tax authorities in overseas accounts, spending the money to maintain a lavish lifestyle — replete with luxury cars and a $15,000 ostrich skin jacket — and lying to banks to generate more cash.
Then in September, Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office as part of a plea deal to avoid a second trial on financial fraud charges in Washington D.C.
Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. — involving money laundering, failing to register foreign lobbying work and other crimes — as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice as part of the effort to influence witness testimony.
Lawyers for Manafort said his health has deteriorated while locked up in a Virginia jail. Manafort showed up to an October court hearing in a wheelchair with a bandage wrapped around his right foot.
In an interview with the New York Post last week, the president declined to rule out pardoning Manafort, who was a key figure in the Trump campaign for five months beginning in March 2016.