A partially redacted transcript released Wednesday sheds light on how Paul Manafort’s attorneys defended him at a closed door hearing this week from allegations that he lied to federal investigators.
His attorneys repeatedly pressed U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to disregard special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertions about the alleged false statements because those claims depended on testimony from Manafort’s former business deputy and Mueller cooperator Rick Gates, who team Manafort sought to paint as a liar and unreliable witness.
Jackson did not have much patience for the argument, made by Manafort defense attorney Kevin Downing.
At one point, she told Downing “you cannot keep saying that.”
“I can keep saying it, your honor, because it’s true,” Downing replied.
Central to the debate appeared to be notes from an FBI interview of Gates — known as a 302 — taken on January 30, 2018. That’s nearly one month before Gates pleaded guilty, on Feb. 23 of that year.
Downing claimed that since a juror told an unnamed media outlet after the August 2018 Manafort trial that she did not find Gates’s testimony in the case to be credible, the judge should discount Gates’ testimony in the dispute over whether Manafort lied after his plea agreement.
“I did not think this Court wouldn’t take into consideration the fact how he was found to have no credibility at all by the jury over there,” Downing said.
When he continued to bring up the argument, Judge Jackson insisted that Downing’s argument “binds me to determine that not one word he said to the Office of Special Counsel was true.”
“I don’t even think your position in the Eastern District was that not one word that comes out of the man’s mouth is true,” she added, referring to the trial Manafort faced in Virginia prior to reaching a plea deal with Mueller.
The hearing took place on Monday and lasted for more than four hours. The judge scheduled yet another hearing for next week on the dispute, which could have a major impact on Manafort’s sentence.
When Mueller first revealed the allegations, Manafort’s attorneys argued against the idea of holding a hearing at all, and said they would preferred to let the probation office, which will file a report ahead of Manafort’s sentencing, sort out the claims — an idea Berman Jackson rejected.
Manafort entered the cooperation agreement with Mueller in September, just before the separate case in D.C. against Manafort brought by Mueller was set to go to trial. In November, Mueller revealed that his office believed Manafort to have been in breach of the plea because he had allegedly misled investigators.