Manafort Kept Up His Sketchy Behavior While Already In Deep Legal Trouble

January 18, 2019 6:00 a.m.

A court document filed by special counsel Robert Mueller this week reveals new examples of how Paul Manafort allegedly engaged in brazenly shady behaviors well after he was already in deep legal trouble.

The heavily redacted filing was made in the dispute over whether Manafort violated his plea deal with Mueller by lying to investigators — perhaps the most brazen, and likely illegal, misconduct of all. But in addition to that, it appears that as late as March 2018, after Manafort was indicted in two separate cases for crimes related to his unregistered Ukraine lobbying work, the former Trump campaign chairman was working on a initiative for Ukraine.

A week before Mueller publicly accused Manafort of witness tampering, Manafort in May 2018 was also telling an associate to name-drop him if he met President Trump, the new filing revealed.  And in October, after Manafort had begun cooperating, it appears someone working on his behalf attempted to clean up the inconsistencies in one of the statements that have now gotten Manafort in hot water.

The details of all the individual episodes were not entirely clear, due to the redactions in Tuesday’s filing — the declaration of an FBI agent — and the accompanying set of exhibits are also mostly not available for the public. However, footnotes and other unredacted sections help assemble a timeline that suggests Manafort continued to act in ways striking for someone under federal indictment and house arrest.

Manafort is currently in jail due to the witness tampering allegations made last summer. After reaching a plea deal in September, he was cooperating with prosecutors until Mueller’s accusations in November of his lying.

His attorneys in previous filings have pushed back on Mueller’s claims that Manafort is in breach of their agreement. They’ve said that the inconsistencies in his statements are understandable — given his complicated life as a political operative and given the mental and physical duress he now finds himself under in jail — and not a purposeful attempt to lie to investigators. But those filings still don’t fully explain the sketchy, relatively recent conduct he’s accused of lying about. His spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

One of the topics Manafort is said to have made false statements about concerns a $125,000 payment in June 2017.  Over the course of multiple interviews, his story changed about the nature of the payment, which had been listed on his 2017 tax returns as income.

Tuesday’s filing alleges that in October 2018, after investigators quizzed Manafort about the payment, a “representative” of Manafort’s sent Manafort’s tax preparer an email suggesting it was in fact a loan, which is how Manafort described it in the last of his changing stories. The tax preparer had been told by Manafort the payment was income in 2017, and up until that point, had never heard otherwise, according to the filing.

In their own filing last week, Manafort’s lawyers claimed that it was “unclear” to Manafort “how this payment was recorded by his accountants and he believed the original plan was to report the payment as a loan.”

Efforts’ to cover-up shady and possibly illegal activities have been a pattern of Manafort’s since he was first indicted in October 2017. He got a tongue lashing from a judge in December for helping to ghostwrite an op-ed defending his Ukraine work, despite her gag order in the case. The text messages that were part of his witness tampering efforts last spring were sent on an encrypted application. Once he was thrown in jail, he allegedly used a technique called “foldering” to secretly send messages to the outside world. The technique involved saving messages as drafts for the intended recipient to later find in the draft folder.

From what can be gleamed from Mueller’s latest filing, it appears Manafort was still working on a so-called “peace” plan for Ukraine after he faced charges in both D.C. and Virginia. Manafort is accused of lying about discussing a “Ukraine peace plan” with his business associate Konstantin Kilimnik on “more than one occasion,” Manafort’s attorneys accidentally revealed in an improperly redacted filing last week.

The latest filing, through partially redacted exhibits, footnotes and other references, suggests that Manafort was working on this plan right before and for weeks after Mueller brought additional charges against him in D.C. and Virginia. One document referenced was accessed by Manafort on Feb. 10 and was titled “New initiative for peace.” Another document is a heavily redacted March 9 email from Manafort that references a “draft” and “edits from KK.” Though redactions obscure what they refer to, Mueller’s footnotes in the same section of the filing cite other emails sent in February as well as later in March, and even in May.

In late May 2018, while Manafort was still in house arrest and weeks away from his trial in Virginia, he was corresponding with a person whose identity is redacted, who asked Manafort permission to bring up their relationship if the person met the President “one on one” the following week.

Manafort told him yes and indicated that the person could drop his name even if they weren’t meeting the president one-on-one, according to the portion of the exchange made publicly available.

“This does not constitute outreach by Mr. Manafort to the President,” Manafort’s attorneys had said in a previous filing.

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