WASHINGTON ― Attorneys for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort accidentally revealed in a court filing Tuesday that the special counsel team led by Robert Mueller has alleged their client lied about sharing polling data with a Russian operative.
Manafort’s lawyers ― in a poorly redacted court filing responding to the special counsel’s claim that Manafort broke his September 2018 plea agreement by lying to investigators ― inadvertently revealed that Mueller’s team alleged that “Manafort lied about sharing polling data with [Konstantin Kilimnik] related to the 2016 presidential campaign.”
Kilimnik, who worked closely with Manafort, is believed to have close ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik was named alongside Manafort in a superseding indictment in June in connection with alleged witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
Manafort’s attorneys ― Kevin Downing, Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling ― contend in the filing that Manafort, a longtime lobbyist who has worked on several Republican presidential campaigns, has “provided complete and truthful information to the best of his ability” since entering into his plea agreement. They disagree with the Mueller team’s claim that the former campaign chairman made intentional misstatements. Manafort’s incarceration, the filing states, has “taken a toll on his physical and mental health,” as he’s developed depression, anxiety and “severe gout.”
Seeking to explain any inconsistencies in his testimony, the lawyers say Manafort has “awoken before dawn” on days he’s met with the special counsel’s office, and had not had an opportunity to review materials in his jail cell the night before his interviews. Mistakes and failed recollections, the filing states, “are common to most proffer meetings between the government and cooperating witnesses.”
The failed redactions by Manafort’s lawyers reveal that Mueller’s team alleged that Manafort met with Kilimnik when they were both in Madrid, and that they discussed a “Ukrainian peace plan.” Manafort’s lawyers said he might not have initially recalled those discussions because “issues and communications related to Ukrainian political events simply were not at the forefront of Mr. Manafort’s mind during the period at issue,” when Manafort was working for the Trump campaign.
The filing also reveals some details of Mueller’s allegations about Manafort’s contacts with the Trump administration, including the allegation that Manafort texted with a third party who wanted permission to use Manafort’s name if he met President Donald Trump, which Manafort’s team says doesn’t count as outreach to the president. Another example, the filing states, is “hearsay purportedly offered by an undisclosed third party and the defense has not been provided with the statement (or any witness statements that form the basis for alleging intentional falsehoods).”
Manafort’s lawyers, in an unredacted portion of the document, said it was “not uncommon” for witnesses to have only a vague recollection about events that happened a long time ago, and that Manafort’s failure to recall certain events “is unsurprising” given that they happened “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.”
Mueller’s team had previously said Manafort lied multiple times, including about his contacts with Trump administration officials. Manafort’s legal team told a judge last month that Manafort might not contest the government’s allegation that he lied.
Manafort has been in government custody since June, when he was indicted on charges related to his alleged witness tampering. He was convicted at his first federal trial in the Eastern District of Virginia in August, and reached a plea agreement that staved off a second trial in the District of Columbia. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced on March 5, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 25 to determine whether he did in fact lie to prosecutors in violation of his plea agreement.
Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice as part of his plea agreement. The agreement required him to “cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly with the Government and other law enforcement authorities identified by the Government in any and all matters as to which the Government deems the cooperation relevant.”
Trump, who has expressed sympathy for Manafort and his family even while distancing himself from Manafort’s criminal activity, has left open the possibility that he’ll pardon his former campaign chief.