“Court documents and pre-sentence hearings that dealt with the breach of Manafort’s plea deal suggest that prosecutors might have more ammunition to go after the 69-year-old on matters that go directly to the question of a conspiracy with Russia, rather than the financial crimes and violations of foreign-agent laws that he’s been charged with to date,” The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand wrote Friday.
After pleading guilty to tax fraud and failing to register for a foreign agent, US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort also lied “intentionally” to the FBI, Mueller and the grand jury “concerning matters that were material to the investigation: his interactions and communications” with suspected Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik, Bertrand noted.
A statement made by top Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann earlier in March offers the first clue that the Manafort saga has not reached its end.
In that closed-door hearing, Weissmann argued that a meeting Manafort had with Kilimnik in August 2016 “goes very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” the reporter noted.
That meeting, however, was “conspicuously absent” from the government’s 800-page sentencing memo for the former Trump campaign chairman. Jackson added in her sentencing hearing earlier in the week that Manafort’s lies about the meeting were just one part of “several matters he lied about with regard to Mr. Kilimnik.”
The known details about the Manafort-Kilimnik meeting may be the closest the public has to a “smoking gun” on Russian collusion, Bertrand wrote, noting that the former Trump campaign chair had his deputy Rick Gates send 75 pages of polling data to the suspected Russian spy.
“The content of the 2016 meeting was only revealed by accident due to a redaction error by Manafort’s lawyers,” she added, “and the significance of the episode to Mueller’s main probe, while hinted at by Weissmann, has yet to be fully explained.”
Read the entire analysis via The Atlantic.
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