Mueller eyes Manafort meeting with Russian partner in 2016 -court filing

Clay Curtis
February 10, 2019

After President Donald Trump's former Campaign Chair Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 counts of federal criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he made a decision to try his luck and avoid a second trial by becoming a cooperating witness in the Russian Federation investigation. But that portion of Weissmann's testimony is redacted in the public transcripts.

Mueller contends that Manafort lied about the number of times he and Kilimnik discussed the topic, the description of which is mostly redacted in the transcript.

The pair also met in December 2016, in January 2017 when Kilimnik was in Washington and again in February 2017, and as recently as the winter of 2018, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson summarized at the hearing, the transcript shows.

A judge confirmed in a court filing Thursday that federal prosecutors in NY are still investigating campaign finance crimes committed when Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid two women to stay silent about alleged affairs with Trump.

A special counsel prosecutor also suggested in the hearing that the former campaign chairman was not forthcoming because Manafort was angling for a pardon.

Mueller is investigating whether there was collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation, which US intelligence agencies charge mounted an influence operation to sway the vote to Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

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In the same court documents, Manafort's defense counsel wrote that their client "discussed a Ukraine peace plan with Mr. Kilimnik on more than one occasion", but details of the alleged plan and the timeframe in which Manafort and Kilimnik discussed it were not described.

Instead, the deal collapsed, with prosecutors withdrawing any offer of a recommendation for leniency and accusing Manafort in late November of lying repeatedly to them.

At the hearing, attorneys discussed whether Manafort may have been motivated to lie in one unspecified instance "to at least augment his chances for a pardon", the transcript states. Kilimnik, who was also indicted in the Manafort case but has been beyond the reach of USA law enforcement, has been described by prosecutors as someone with ties to Russian intelligence.

According to the transcript, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said the substance of the meeting, which took place in NY just weeks after the Republican National Convention, goes to the "larger view of what we think is going on" and what "we think the motive here is".

A jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on eight counts of tax and bank-fraud charged against him in August. Gates also spoke to investigators about Manafort sharing the polling data, according to the transcript.

The transcript does reveal that Rick Gates, Manafort's longtime protege who also served on the Trump campaign, attended the meeting. Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, emailed Kilimnik earlier in the year to offer "private briefings" about the Trump campaign, the Washington Post reported.

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