Mueller Ordered to Share Evidence of Illicit Manafort Dealings

In this courtroom drawing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, left, sits with his lawyer Kevin Downing as Manafort’s trial continues at federal court in Alexandria, Va., on Aug. 7, 2018. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Special Counsel’s office must divulge all evidence it has to back up claims that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has breached his plea deal, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The order by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes mere days after Manafort’s defense attorneys divulged for the first time that Manafort is believed to have lied about his communication with accused Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik and other foreign parties. 

As detailed in a paragraph of a Tuesday response brief that defense attorneys intended to redact, Special Counsel Robert Mueller believes Manafort passed internal polling data about the Trump campaign to Kilimnik while the campaign was in full swing.

Set to campaign for border-wall funding in Texas this afternoon, President Donald Trump denied any knowledge of Manafort’s alleged activities with Kilimnik as he prepared to board Air Force One.

“No, I didn’t know anything about it – nothing about it,” Trump said.

Last year, the president made similar denials when asked whether he knew his former personal attorney Michael Cohen made hush payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

In the context of Mueller’s investigation, Manafort’s alleged correspondence with Kilimnik calls into question a narrative long held by the president: the probe is a “witch hunt” with no evidence that members of his campaign actively coordinated with Russian sources before the November 2016 election.

Manafort was convicted in August 2018 on eight counts of bank and tax fraud at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Though the former lobbyist pleaded guilty a month later to separate charges in Washington, Mueller’s office accused Manafort in November of violating that deal.

Judge Jackson’s request for Mueller on Thursday means the special counsel’s office must provide evidence to support its allegations.

The botched redactions found in the Tuesday filing by defense attorney Kevin Downing also spoke to allegations that during Trump’s campaign Manafort and Kilimnik met in Spain to discuss a peace plan for Ukraine.

Downing revealed inadvertently as well that Manafort is suspected of having signed off on letting an unidentified third party attempt to get close to the president by name-dropping him.

Defense attorneys argued in the intentionally public portions of the brief that Manafort did not omit information from prosecutors intentionally over more than a dozen meetings. They said he simply made honest mistakes while suffering from depression and worsening health.

Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, declined to comment Thursday.

Judge Jackson instructed Mueller’s office on Thursday to submit their “factual and evidentiary” information to support all of its claims by Jan. 14. Defense attorneys must respond by Jan 18.

Jackson could then hold a hearing on Jan. 25 at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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