U.S. special counsel adds charges against Manafort, indicts Russian operative

Спецпрокурор Мюллер предъявил обвинения Полу Манафорту

Спецпрокурор Мюллер предъявил обвинения Полу Манафорту

None of the charges against Manafort are related to Russian interference in the 2016 elections or any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which Mueller was originally appointed to investigate. They said nothing governing the terms of their client's pretrial release prevents him from having contact with anyone, that the encrypted-messaging apps Manafort used are commonplace and that he didn't ask anyone to produce a false affidavit or false testimony at trial. The charges come as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's year-long investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 election.

Both were charged in a District of Columbia federal court with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice when they allegedly sought to make contact with two witnesses earlier this year.

Kilimnik, widely believed to be a former agent for the Kremlin's top intelligence agency, GRU, has been working for Manafort in various capacities since they lobbied for Russia-backed ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in the early 2000s.

The new charges were unsealed Friday against Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik.

The latest charges increase Manafort's legal jeopardy if he continues a battle with prosecutors.

The witnesses placed op-eds from the politicians and arranged meetings for them in the United States and around the world, according to court papers.

Manafort lawyers said even the messages cited by prosecutors "are entirely consistent with Mr. Manafort's stated position and repeated assertion of his innocence", that his lobbying was "European-focused" and that he had no idea the two recipients would be called as witnesses.

In the piece, writer Christopher Strohm argues that the charges against Kilimnik represent a breakthrough in the case because it "links senior officials on President Donald Trump's presidential campaign to Russian intelligence in a criminal matter". He has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and is expected to go on trial in Washington, D.C., on September 17.

Manafort's lawyers responded to those allegations in a sharply worded filing late Friday, accusing Mueller of contriving "dubious allegations" of witness tampering and, in so doing, poisoning the jury pool ahead of his trials.

Paul Manafort leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C. on February 28, 2018.

Manafort's spokesman Jason Maloni said on Friday he was reviewing the new charges. Kilimnik, who prosecutors say lives in Moscow, was not in USA custody Friday. Manafort deputy and co-defendant Rick Gates had pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and to a conspiracy charge.

Manafort worked with a lobbying firm that enlisted former European politicians, the so-called Hapsburg group, who wrote articles and addressed USA politicians. The witnesses and Kilimnik (originally named in court docs as Person A) were implicated in coordinating this plot.

Yet Manafort and the public relations people had brought the Hapsburg group to the U.S. to speak with members of Congress about the interests of Viktor Yanukovych, a former Ukrainian president who had jailed a political rival, while posing as independent voices, prosecutors said earlier this week. Kilimnik has denied such ties and characterized himself as "a random casualty because of my proximity to" Manafort.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has scheduled a hearing for June 15 at which she ordered Manafort, prosecutors and witnesses to appear to deal with the alleged witness-tampering.

On Friday, Trump wouldn't rule out pardoning Manafort.

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