Ex-Trump Campaign Official Faces New Charges

Ex-Trump Campaign Official Faces New ChargesEx-Trump Campaign Official Faces New Charges

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office obtained a new indictment on Friday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, adding a pair of charges that he and a longtime aide alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence, Konstantin Kilimnik, obstructed justice by attempting to tamper with witnesses.

The new criminal charges—the first public ones against Kilimnik—track with allegations Mueller’s team leveled earlier this week that Manafort and an associate tried to influence the testimony of two men involved in a public relations campaign several years ago to buff up the image of Ukraine and its president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych.

Legal experts said Mueller’s latest move could be particularly damaging for Manafort, predicting that the judge could soon rescind the former campaign chairman’s current house arrest arrangement, Politico reported.

“The heat is being turned up on Paul Manafort,” said Robert Ray, a former independent counsel who succeeded Kenneth Starr in the investigation of multiple scandals involving President Bill Clinton.

Manafort’s legal team fired back at the prosecution in a court filing Friday night, accusing Mueller’s lawyers of “heavy-handed tactics” and of distorting the significance of Manafort’s effort to reach out to former colleagues in his Ukraine-related work.

“From a scant record, the Special Counsel conjures a sinister plot to ‘corruptly persuade’ two of Mr. Manafort’s former business associates to perjure themselves at the upcoming trial in September,” Manafort’s attorneys wrote. “Mr. Manafort asked no one to provide a false affidavit or false testimony at trial, or perjure themselves, and he has not given—nor offered to give — any potential witness anything in exchange for false testimony.”

Manafort’s lawyers Kevin Downing, Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling said prosecutors’ public airing of the tampering allegations earlier this week sabotaged the veteran lobbyist and political consultant’s right to a fair trial and amounted to a last-ditch effort to torpedo their client’s long-delayed release from home detention.

“The Court should not condone such heavy-handed gamesmanship by the Special Counsel,” the defense team wrote. “The new charge of witness tampering made by the Special Counsel should be seen for what it is: an attempt to derail the modified conditions of release at the eleventh hour.”

The defense also noted that Manafort was never told he could have no contact with witnesses in the case. “The communications and conduct alleged by the Special Counsel in this case come nowhere near the conduct discussed in the cases supporting witness tampering charges,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote.


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