Manafort Accused of Witness Tampering by Special Counsel

WASHINGTON (CN) – Paul Manafort, the former chairman for President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, used an encrypted messaging app in order to tamper with a witness, Special Counsel Robert Mueller alleges in a filing entered Monday night.

According to the 18-page filing in a federal court in Washington, D.C., evidence collected by FBI Agent Brock Domin established probable cause suggesting “Manafort violated 18 USC 1512 by attempting to tamper with potential witnesses while on pretrial release and accordingly, has violated the conditions of his release.”

The violation immediately triggers a “no conditions or combination of release conditions,” prompting special assistant to special counsel Andrew Weissman to request U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson revoke Manafort’s current terms of release or modify them.

Paul Manafort walks into the Alexandria Federal Courthouse on Friday, May 4, 2018, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife Kathleen Manafort, left, and Kevin Downing, attorney for Manafort. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

If revoked, Manafort would await his respective trials in Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia in jail.

According to Domin’s testimony, Manafort sent a text message on an encrypted app to a former colleague and one-time intermediary for Ukrainian lobbyists associated with the Hapsburg group, a collection of former senior European political officials who acted as “third-party paid lobbyists for Ukraine,” the filing states.

“This is paul [sic],” the message said.

In February, a grand jury indicted Manafort on multiple counts of bank and tax fraud as well as conspiracy. Special Counsel Mueller also alleges Manafort violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act when he failed to disclose his lobbying of the Hapsburg group.

Prosecutors claim Manafort funneled more than 2 million euros from international accounts he controlled associated with the firm.

“Following the public disclosure of the February 23 superseding indictment, Manafort and Person A—who is a longtime associate of Manafort’s—repeatedly contacted Persons D1 and D2 in an effort to secure materially false testimony concerning the activities of the Hapsburg group,” the filing states.

Identified only as persons D1 or D2, Domin said Manafort’s text to D1 went unanswered, so the former campaign chair tried again.

This time, Manafort sent “a new article describing the superseding indictment’s allegations concerning the Hapsburg group.”

The article highlighted the two European politicians that were “secretly paid” around 2 million euros by Manafort in order to ‘take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States,” the filing states.

Just 60 seconds after Manafort sent the article, he messaged again: “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”

Manafort attempted a phone call just a day later.

But according to agent Domin,  “person D1” told the government he understood Manafort’s outreach to be an effort to “suborn perjury,” because person D1 knew that the Hapsburg group worked in the United States — not just Europe.

Ultimately, Manafort’s communications were an “effort to influence their testimony and to otherwise conceal evidence,” Domin said.

Telephone records and other information obtained through a search of Manafort’s iCloud account also established a timeline of the alleged tampering: the outreach occurred while he was freshly out on bail.

In Virginia, Mueller’s legal team entered a separate filing at the Eastern District of Virginia, notifying Judge T.S. Ellis III of the request to revise or revoke Manafort’s bond.

Manafort is scheduled to attend a motion hearing there on June 29 where the judge will consider his request to dismiss several parts of his indictment, including a claim that leaks by senior officials to members of the media spoiled his chances at a fair trial.

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