Special Counsel Shores Up Manafort Witness-Tampering Claim

WASHINGTON (CN) – Buttressing the special counsel’s bid to lock up Paul Manafort ahead of trial, a prosecutor told a federal judge Tuesday that the evidence of witness tampering is clear.

Manafort opposed the motion to revoke his bail on June 8, but Andrew Weissman with the Special Counsel’s Office said in reply Tuesday that the former manager of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign offered no basis to credit his story.

The two witnesses Manafort is accused of attempting to influence are identified as Persons D1 and D2 in a superseding indictment. Though otherwise unidentified, the witnesses served as intermediaries for the Hapsburg Group, a collective of former senior European politicians whom Manafort paid to lobby in the United States on behalf of Ukraine.

Manafort’s assertion that the Hapsburg Group’s work was European-focused, and that his communications with Persons D1 and D2 were benign, earned skepticism from Weissman.

“Manafort does not set forth facts refuting the government’s showing that the Hapsburg group lobbied in the United States, that Manafort was aware of this activity, and that his outreach after the February 2018 superseding indictment was an effort to have witnesses conform to a false version of events,” the 8-page reply states.

Weissman’s reply also accuses Manafort of ignoring the proof that the Hapsburg group conducted substantial U.S. lobbying activities from September 2012 through 2014.

One such instance described in the reply occurred in 2012 when Manafort arranged for members of the Hapsburg group to lobby a U.S. senator as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding a resolution that condemned the prosecution of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Manafort also helped edit an editorial in 2013 written by a member of the Hapsburg group that appeared in The Hill after meetings with U.S. politicians.

“This evidence, unrebutted by Manafort, establishes that the story he urged Persons D1 and D2 to adopt was knowingly false: contrary to the narrative Manafort and Kilimnik conveyed to Persons D1 and D2, the Hapsburg group lobbied in the United States,” the reply says.

As to Manafort’s claim that the Hapsburg group’s lobbying work was focused on Europe, Weissmann points to a 2013 report Manafort draft to Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych detailing the success of the media and lobbying effort in the United States.

Weissmann says a copy of the report was seized when federal agents searched his Virginia residence, and has since been disclosed to him through discovery.

“We have aggressively made the case to Congress and the Executive Branch that if sanctions are imposed against Ukraine it will undercut the European

initiative to bring Ukraine into the European sphere,” the memo says, as quoted by Weissmann.

Manafort will be arraigned on the new charges Friday morning in Washington, D.C. A hearing on the government’s motion to revoke or revise his pretrial release will follow.

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