Manafort disputes Mueller’s accusations that he lied

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has ordered that former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort must be in court for a major hearing about cooperation with investigators Friday, following his request that he waive attending the proceedings.

The order comes as Manafort’s legal team continues to dispute the evidence prosecutors have presented to show a judge he lied about five topics during his cooperation interviews and grand jury testimony.

Manafort has not been seen publicly since October, when he entered a hearing in a wheelchair because he was suffering from gout. He argued the transportation from Alexandria, Virginia’s jail to Washington, DC’s federal courthouse is too time-consuming.

Jackson said Manafort has skipped too many court hearings in his criminal case and that Friday’s is a particularly important one for him to attend. At that hearing, Jackson plans to discuss how prosecutors allege Manafort broke his plea agreement by lying during cooperation interviews and while he gave grand jury testimony.

“Given the number of court appearances defendant has been permitted to waive, the significance of the issues at stake, and the fact that his being available to consult with counsel may reduce the likelihood that the defense position with respect to the issues discussed will change after the hearing, defendant’s motion is denied,” Jackson wrote in the order Wednesday.

Earlier this month, special counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort had lied about topics including “contact with administration officials.”

Mueller also said Manafort had lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller has said Kilimnik has ties to the Russian military intelligence unit accused of hacking the Democrats, and Mueller’s team has previously outlined how the two men may have worked together to tamper with witnesses following Manafort’s arrest last year.

Manafort’s lawyers on Wednesday rejected the special counsel’s characterization.

“When placed in proper context, much of the evidence presented by the (Office of Special Counsel) merely demonstrates a lack of consistency in Mr. Manafort’s recollection of certain facts and events,” they wrote.

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In discussing the various times Manafort lied on the record with prosecutors or before the grand jury, Manafort’s lawyers say he provided information “to the best of his recollection,” gave authorities “expressions of Mr. Manafort’s understanding” or “simply did not remember,” according to the filing. In some instances, the defense lawyers agree that Manafort may have said incorrect things but then corrected them during the same interview.

In all, Manafort spoke to Mueller’s office nine times following his plea last September and testified to a federal grand jury twice.

“Such sessions are often stressful for witnesses and there is nothing unusual or inappropriate in refreshing a witness’ recollection,” Manafort’s attorneys wrote.

Wednesday’s filing provides little additional details about what investigators are pursuing or what Manafort said during his cooperation sessions. Previous court filings on the topic, like this one, were heavily redacted.

However, an error in the redactions in the last filing from Manafort’s team revealed how Manafort had discussed polling data with Kilimnik during the 2016 presidential election as well as a Ukraine peace proposal, and met with him in Madrid.

The Manafort defense team didn’t make the same redacting mistake this time. But they did suggest one additional piece of information, about a text message exchange following Manafort’s arrest where a contact asked to use his name with the President. In the new filing, Manafort’s lawyers say that text was from a person wanting to introduce himself to the President and sought to drop Manafort’s name. The incident was among several alleged communications with the Trump administration Manafort may have had following the inauguration and even after his arrest, prosecutors say.