Mueller Brings New Obstruction Charges Against Manafort And Russian Biz Pal

AFP Contributor/AFP

Special counsel Robert Mueller announced Friday a new grand jury indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime Russian business deputy for alleged witness tampering in the case that was already pending against Manafort.

Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s business deputy, has been alluded to in previous Mueller court filings, which have claimed that he’s had ties to a Russian intelligence service.

The special counsel on Friday brought charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice against the two men.

“From in or about and between February 23, 2018, and April 2018, both dates being approximate and inclusive, within the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendants Paul Manafort, and Konstantin Kilimnik, knowingly and intentionally conspired to corruptly persuade another person, to wit: Persons D1 and D2, with intent to influence, delay, and, prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding,” Mueller said in the filing.

Manafort previously was facing charges brought in D.C, that included money laundering, failure to disclose foreign lobbying and false statements. Those charges remain unchanged in the new indictment.

Mueller has also brought a case against Manafort in Virginia, where the charges include bank fraud and tax fraud.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Mueller first made the witness tampering allegations against Manafort on Monday evening, in court filings seeking that his current release on house arrest be revised or revoked. It appears Mueller was able to quickly convince a grand jury to approve the charges, and prosecutors have put on a full court press to pressure Manafort to cooperate on the probe.

Before Friday’s new charges, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had scheduled a hearing for next Friday on the bail revocation, and it is possible that Manafort that be sent directly from the courthouse to jail, due to the allegations.

According to Mueller, Manafort and Kilimnik — who up until Friday’s new indictment, was referred to as “Person A” in the special counsel’s court filings — sought to make contact with two former business associates who were involved in Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying work. The two former associates, according to Mueller, were in charge of coordinating a group of ex-European politicians known as the “Hapsburg group,” who sought to promote Ukraine’s Party of Regions in Europe and the U.S.

Manafort’s and Kilimnik’s alleged outreached involved both phone calls and texts which started in February, when Mueller unveiled new allegations against Manafort having to do with the “Hapsburg group.”

Defense attorneys unconnected to the case told TPM earlier this week that Monday’s bail revocation filing, which included a log of the alleged texts and calls, was especially persuasive.

“You could put this evidence in front of a grand jury and they would indict him in a nano second,”said Nick Akerman, a defense attorney and former Watergate prosecutor. “If you had these two witness and these documents, you put them before a trial jury, they’d convict them in two seconds. Its really a pretty overwhelming case.”

Kilimnik made his first appearance in Mueller’s court filings as “Person A,” when Mueller alleged last year that Manafort had sought to ghost-write an op-ed for a Ukraine news outlet, in violation of judge’s gag order on the case. Emails obtained by TPM showed Kilimnik correspondence with a former Ukrainian politician who claimed to be the op-ed author, in which Kilimnik informed him that he was sending a draft to Manafort to look over.

Other court documents filed by Mueller have described “Person A” as having had “ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”

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