The former Trump campaign chairman on Tuesday denied in a filing from his defense team that he broke his plea deal by lying repeatedly to prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about that and other issues.
In his rebuttal to the special counsel’s claims of dishonesty, Manafort exposed details of the dispute, much of which centers on his relationship with Kilimnik. The Russian citizen, who began working for Manafort’s consulting firm starting in 2005, has been charged with helping his former boss to obstruct Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 election. He is believed to be in Moscow.
The special counsel alleged Manafort “lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign,” according to the unredacted filing. The source of that data, including whether it came from the Trump campaign, is unclear.
According to the filing, Mueller also accused Manafort of lying about discussing a Ukrainian peace plan with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign.
“Manafort ‘conceded’ that he discussed or may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan with Mr. Kilimnik on more than one occasion,” his attorneys quote the special counsel as saying, and “ ‘acknowledged’ that he and Mr. Kilimnik met while they were both in Madrid,” without giving a date.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said the Madrid meeting took place in January or February 2017, after the presidential campaign was completed. He declined to comment on other pieces of the filing.
In their Tuesday court submission, Manafort’s lawyers said his inconsistencies when he spoke to prosecutors were honest mistakes.
“These occurrences happened during a period when Mr. Manafort was managing a U.S. presidential campaign,” they wrote. “Issues and communications related to Ukrainian political events simply were not at the forefront of Mr. Manafort’s mind during the period at issue and it is not surprising at all that Mr. Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed.”
Kilimnik has told The Washington Post he was in close contact with Manafort through the campaign and met with Manafort in the United States in May and in August 2016. Kilimnik did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
Manafort’s lawyers provided no additional details about the “Ukrainian peace plan” in their filing.
Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has said that in January 2017, he was given a Russian-friendly peace plan for Ukraine during a meeting at a New York hotel with a Ukrainian lawmaker and Felix Sater, a longtime Trump business associate.
The proposal would have paved the way for the United States to lift sanctions on Russia, a top Kremlin foreign policy goal. Manafort told The Post in 2017 he had “no role” in the episode.
In emails first reported by The Post, Manafort, who was deeply in debt at the time he agreed to work for Trump’s campaign for no pay, wrote to Kilimnik during the campaign and said he hoped to use his position to “get whole.” He also asked Kilimnik to offer private briefings about the campaign to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian businessman who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to whom Manafort owed money.
A spokeswoman for Deripaska has said he was never offered briefings and didn’t receive any.
Mueller also said in a previous court filing that Manafort lied about contacting administration officials after Trump took office. Manafort had told investigators he had no direct or indirect contact with White House officials since the inauguration, but Manafort had been in touch with officials as recently as the spring, according to the special counsel’s assertions.
Manafort told a colleague in February — four months after his indictment — he was in contact with a senior administration official through that time, prosecutors said. And in a text message, he authorized another person to speak with a White House official on May 26, they alleged.
In Tuesday’s filing, Manafort’s attorneys said that person was “asking permission to use Mr. Manafort’s name as an introduction in the event the third-party met the President,” which “does not constitute outreach by Mr. Manafort to the President.”
The lawyers added that the other example of alleged contact with administration officials “is hearsay purportedly offered by an undisclosed third party and the defense has not been provided with the statement.”
Defense attorneys wrote Manafort had trouble recollecting certain details partly because solitary confinement at the Alexandria jail in Virginia has “taken a toll on his physical and mental health.”
“For several months Mr. Manafort has suffered from severe gout, at times confining him to a wheelchair,” the lawyers wrote. “He also suffers from depression and anxiety and, due to the facility’s visitation regulations, has had very little contact with his family.”
In a statement, Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called information in the filing “damning evidence of a senior Trump campaign official providing information to individuals tied to Russian intelligence in the midst of the Kremlin’s effort to undermine our election.”
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the filing “stunning” and promised to pursue the questions it raised.
Prosecutors allege Manafort told “multiple discernible lies” in the course of 12 interviews and two grand jury appearances since his guilty plea in September in Washington to conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiring to obstruct justice through his undisclosed lobbying for a pro-Russian politician in Ukraine. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has ordered the special counsel to respond and set a Jan. 25 hearing to air the competing perspectives.
In the Tuesday filing, Manafort’s lawyers said the disagreement can be dealt with through the sentencing process because prosecutors have said they have no plans to file fresh charges.
The longtime Republican consultant already faces a possible maximum 10-year prison sentence in his D.C. case under federal guidelines for conspiring to cheat the Internal Revenue Service, violate foreign-lobbying laws and tamper with witnesses. That time could come in addition to his punishment for separate convictions in Virginia on tax and bank fraud charges.
Manafort faces a tentative March 5 sentencing date in his federal case in Washington. If he is found to have breached the deal, he would lose any sentencing credits for acceptance of responsibility, prosecutors said.
The longtime lobbyist is set for sentencing Feb. 8 in Virginia before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of Alexandria.
Under the agreement with prosecutors in his D.C. case, Manafort also was ordered to forfeit an estimated $15 million he hid from the IRS, but he was permitted to keep some property held with relatives. In return for his cooperation, he hoped to have prosecutors recommend leniency, possibly slicing years off his prison term.
Prosecutors said Manafort also lied about the circumstances of a $125,000 wire transfer in 2017. Manafort’s filing sheds little light on that transaction. His attorneys say only that they have not seen evidence from the special counsel indicating Manafort’s version of events is untrue.
Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.