Sloppy Filing Brings New Manafort Allegations to Light

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves court after a May 23, 2018, hearing in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Failing to properly redact his public court filing, an attorney for Paul Manafort inadvertently disclosed Tuesday that the convicted ex-lobbyist is suspected of having shared polling data on the 2016 election with an accused Russian spy.

The allegations became apparent after copies of the document made visible sections of the filing that were supposed to be redacted.

According to motion, Special Counsel Robert Mueller claims Manafort violated his plea deal last year when he lied to investigators about passing off the polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national whom investigators believe has ties to Russian intelligence organizations.

Filed in Washington by defense attorney Kevin Downing, the brief argues that Manafort “provided complete and truthful information to the best of his ability,” and attempted to cooperate meaningfully with several “key areas under current government investigation.”

Manafort met with investigators on at least a dozen occasions and testified twice before a grand jury. His attorneys said Tuesday that the stress of incarceration, solitary confinement and mounting health issues “weighed heavily on his mind” amid this cooperation and may have led to some confusion during questioning.

During a hearing in Virginia last year, Manafort appeared in a wheelchair because he was suffering from gout.

Downing also notes that Manafort’s cooperative efforts coincided with his guilty plea in Washington, “thus he was afforded little opportunity to prepare for his meetings with the government’s attorneys and investigators.”

Manafort is alleged have provided inaccurate or incomplete information about multiple issues, prosecutors say, pointing specifically to his meetings and conversations with Kilimnik.

Downing argues, however, that it “is not uncommon” for witnesses to only have a “vague” recollection of events that occurred years prior.

“Such a failure is unsurprising here where these occurrences happend during a period when Mr. Manafort was managing a U.S. presidential campaign and had countless meetings, email communications and other interactions with many different individuals and traveled frequently,” the filing states.

For tampering with two potential government witnesses, Manafort pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C., to federal obstruction charges. Prosecutors leveled the same charge against Kilimnik, but Downing said they dispute “the government’s characterization that, after he pleaded guilty, Mr. Manafort denied that Mr. Kilimnik participated in the conspiracy.”

Manafort acknowledged during a meeting with the Office of the Special Counsel in October that he and Kilmnik agreed to reach out to the government witnesses. When the former Trump campaign chairman was asked to agree that Kilminik also possessed “the requisite state of mind to legally establish his guilt,” however, Manafort balked.

Downing explained that Manafort could not confirm another person’s “internal thoughts,” and that Manafort did not intentionally lie nor he did not back away from his own guilty plea.

There was also general confusion around payments that flowed around Manafort, including a $125,000 payment the government claims was made on Manafort’s behalf in 2017.

“When the government first raised this topic, Mr. Manafort was asked about a much larger payment to the firm on his behalf,” Downing wrote. “He said he thought it was a smaller amount and had no recollection of a payment in the amount described by the government.”

During his interviews with prosecutors, Manafort initially said he pursued the head of an organization – described in Tuesday’s brief as “Entity B” – because he was in debt and the entity owed him money.

Downing argued that investigators confused the ensuing details around the payment plan.  

“At bottom it appears that the government’s evidence corroborates Mr. Manafort’s testimony that the head of Firm A paid the money at the head of Entity B’s request from money the head of Firm A owed to the head of Entity B,” the filing states.

In yet another meeting with investigators, Downing said Manafort tried to explain that it was unclear to him how his accountants actually recorded the payment.

“He believed the original plan was to report the payment as a loan but it had actually been reported as income on his 2017 tax return,” the filing states.

The position echoes those Manafort made at trial in Virginia last year.

A federal jury convicted Manafort of fraud at that venue after prosecutors provided significant evidence showing the convoluted methods the former lobbyist used to hide payments or miscategorize them to evade tax collectors.

Downing also claims that Mueller is off-base to suggest that Manafort lied about his contacts with at least two members of the Trump administration.

“Mr. Manafort was briefly asked several questions related to contacts with the administration and explained that, although he knew many individuals who had been appointed to positions within the administration, he did not believe that he had any direct or indirect communications with any of them during the time that those individuals actually served in the administration,” Downing wrote.

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