Prosecutor Manafort meeting with Russian at heart of probe

Elias Hubbard
February 10, 2019

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".

Mueller's prosecutors, who have charged more than 30 people, are investigating whether anyone in the Trump campaign conspired with Russians.

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, may have lied to prosecutors to increase his chances at a pardon for crimes he committed, according to a court transcript.

"This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel's Office is investigating", Weissmann said, noting Kilimnik's past intelligence ties and Manafort's position at the top of the Trump campaign at the time.

The Aug. 2, 2016 meeting between Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik was one of several at which the two discussed a topic related to Ukraine, according to the transcript of a sealed February 4 court hearing in Manafort's criminal case in Washington.

At the meeting, Ukrainian policy - and, it appears according to previous filings, a peace plan that would have benefited Russian Federation - came up.

At one point, the prosecutor acknowledges that Manafort may have been playing for a pardon.

Kilimnik, who was indicted a year ago on charges of witness tampering in Manafort's case, has denied having ties to Russian spy agencies.

The comments came during a hearing over whether Manafort lied to investigators and violated the terms of his plea agreement.

The transcript revealed that Kilimnik attended Trump's inauguration, and that he and Manafort did political work in Ukraine in 2018 - after Manafort's first indictment in late 2017.

Legal analyst Luppe Luppen speculated on Twitter that, in a redacted portion of the transcript, prosecutors may have listed the possibility of a presidential pardon as an "unusual factor" in Manafort's plea agreement. He was found guilty on five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to disclose his foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud, in August.

Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing also attacked Gates's credibility and urged the judge not to rely on it.

The special counsel's office has cast a wide net, indicting Russians who used hacking and social media trickery to influence the 2016 election.

Weissmann also noted that at the August 2016 meeting of Kilimnik, Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates took pains to leave separately - at a time when contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation were of utmost interest.

Manafort's defense team has argued in court filings that "a fair reading" of much of the government's evidence about the alleged lies "merely demonstrates a lack of consistency in Mr. Manafort's recollection of certain facts and events", many of which occurred years ago or during a high-pressure presidential campaign he left as questions about his work in Ukraine were being raised. And in 2016. there is an in-person meeting with someone who the government has certainly proffered to this court in the past, is understood by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, assessed to be - have a relationship with Russian intelligence, that there is [redacted].

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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