Manafort faces new charges in Russia probe

Manafort faces new charges in Russia probe

Former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his attorneys struck back at special counsel Robert Mueller's charges of witness tampering late Friday, calling them based on the "thinnest of evidence".

In the days that followed and through April, Manafort and Kilimnik suggested the two witnesses who worked on the Hapsburg group project say the group focused on Europe and "never lobbied in the USA", according to an encrypted message between Kilimnik and one witness that prosecutors obtained.

In a court filing earlier this week, Mueller asked the judge overseeing the case in the District of Columbia to revoke or revise an order releasing Manafort ahead of trial due to the allegations of witness tampering.

Kilimnik, described as a former Russian intelligence officer, worked with Manafort on the Yanukovych job. "It's certainly far too early to be thinking about that".

Kilimnik, a former employee, had worked with Manafort for years in the latter's European work.

However, Manafort is known to have taken part in a June 2016 meeting with Trump's son Donald Trump Jr and son-in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer, which had been set up to gain information on Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton.

Kilimnik worked for Manafort's longtime business partner, Rick Gates, when they served as political consultants in Ukraine. The indictment marked the first charges for Manafort's associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is believed to be in Moscow and probably safe from arrest because Russian Federation does not extradite its citizens.

In addition, the formal obstruction of justice charges bolster Mueller's overall case against Manafort.

Mueller's office filed court papers Monday accusing Manafort of witness tampering.

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According to the Prosecutor, between 2006 and 2014 Manafort and his partners Richard gates and kilimnik "participated in a lobbying campaign worth millions of dollars in the United States", working with the ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, Party of regions and the government of Ukraine. Kilimnik was also involved in that episode.

Kilimnik, according to court papers, wrote a message to the other executive two days later saying: "Basically P wants to give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the U.S., and the objective of the program was European Union".

Mueller has accused Manafort of attempting to call, text and send encrypted messages in February to two people from "The Hapsburg Group", a political discussion group he allegedly worked with to promote the interests of Ukraine, in an effort to influence their testimony or hide evidence in the case.

Manafort could have violated federal laws if he lobbied for the ex-Ukrainian leader in the USA without registering as a foreign agent.

Prosecutors said the two didn't respond to the communications from Manafort and the associate, with one of them telling prosecutors he believed they were trying to induce him to commit perjury. He was actually charged with one count of obstruction, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

They said Manafort's "limited communications can not be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness".

Kilimnik wasn't identified by name in the March filing but Bloomberg has confirmed it referred to him. Others include 13 Russians accused in a hidden social media effort to sway public opinion, former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. "You now have the former chairman of the Trump campaign charged with conspiring with a suspected Russian intelligence operative".

Emails show that during the middle of the campaign, Manafort told Kilimnik he was willing to provide "private briefings" about Trump's presidential run to a billionaire close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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