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Judge rules Paul Manafort lied to investigators, violating plea deal

Manafort violated agreement, judge says

A federal judge has ruled that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller's office by lying to the FBI, a federal grand jury and the special counsel. "[T]he Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement," Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a ruling after a hearing in Washington on Wednesday.

The ruling means the special counsel is released from its promise to support a reduced sentence for Manafort in exchange for his cooperation. Manafort is due to be sentenced March 13. The government can also now file additional charges against Manafort for lying, but prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said in January there was "no current intention" to do so.

Manafort faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the two felony conspiracy counts.     

Manafort's attorneys had vehemently opposed the government's contention that Manafort had lied, filing a memorandum with the court Wednesday morning arguing there was "no basis" to determine he had intentionally misled investigators.

In November 2018, Mueller's office told the court Manafort had lied to investigators while he was supposed to be cooperating about five aspects of the government's investigation, most notably about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political operative with ties to the Kremlin. Jackson ruled Manafort lied to the government about three of those instances.

Since November 2017, Jackson has kept the case under a gag order, banning the government and lawyers for Manafort and his former associate Rick Gates from speaking to the press.

Manafort was found guilty of financial crimes including bank fraud and lying on his tax returns in August 2018. Facing the prospect of another trial, he pleaded guilty to two additional felonies and soon afterward agreed to cooperate with the government.

The special counsel accused Manafort of lying to federal prosecutors on a "variety" of subjects, though he was required by his plea agreement to cooperate "fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly."

In particular, Manafort was found to be lying about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, who ran Manafort's office in Kiev. But the nature of those allegations is not known because the material in the filing related to Kilimnik remains heavily redacted.

Paul Manafort
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington on Feb. 28, 2018. Reuters

Jackson was unconvinced by the special counsel's claim that Manafort lied about Kilimnik's role in the obstruction of justice conspiracy. She also did not find that the government had proven he intentionally lied about his communications with anyone in the Trump administration.

Kilimnik, who has ties to Russian intelligence, was indicted in June. Manafort has admitted he conspired with Kilimnik to obstruct justice.

Manafort was also found to have made false statements related to another Justice Department investigation.

The court is expected to release a transcript of the proceedings by Friday.

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