Manafort May Have Lied to Boost Chance at Pardon, Mueller Says

Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort looks on during Trump's walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland US

Manafort May Have Lied to Boost Chance at Pardon, Mueller Says

A former business partner of Paul Manafort who has been accused by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller of having ties to Russian intelligence attended the inauguration of President Donald Trump, according to a court transcript released on Thursday.

Manafort "lied about an extremely sensitive matter", Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, told a judge at a February 4 hearing.

One of the meetings, on August 2, 2016, "goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel's office is investigating", Weissmann told the judge.

Judging by previous court filings the topic at issue appears to be a "Ukrainian peace plan" that was reportedly aimed at lifting USA sanctions on Russia - long an important objective of Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.

Weissmann explored those details during Monday's hearing as he argued that Manafort repeatedly lied during interviews with investigators after he cut a plea deal. Many details from the transcript are blacked out.

Manafort's hopes for a pardon was one of several revelations in the 142-page transcript of a sealed hearing.

A judge confirmed in a court filing Thursday that federal prosecutors in NY are still investigating campaign finance crimes committed when Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid two women to stay silent about alleged affairs with Trump.

In a final allegation, prosecutors have said Manafort lied about the terms of a $125,000 payment toward an apparent debt he incurred to a law firm he employed in 2017.

Mueller is investigating whether there was collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation, which USA intelligence agencies charge mounted an influence operation to sway the vote to Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. They also revealed that in 2017 and 2018- years when Manafort was under federal investigation and later indictment for his work in Ukraine- he arranged for polling in the country on behalf of an unnamed Ukrainian political figure. It makes clear that prosecutors have homed in on the repeated contacts between Manafort and his longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the Federal Bureau of Investigation says has ties to the Russia's military intelligence agency.

Jackson's ruling could affect Manafort's sentencing on two felony charges stemming from illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian interests. Manafort faces a separate sentencing in Virginia for bank- and tax-fraud convictions.

Mueller got that information from Gates, according to the transcript.

And even The Daily Caller's Chuck Ross, a frequent critic of the Russia investigation, pointed out Thursday that the meeting with Kilimnick Weissman referenced was on August 2 - a month after Manafort sent a Kilimnick an email offering private briefings to Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort was reportedly in debt. This, quite directly, implies that Trump has an interest in one of his former aides engaging in a criminal cover-up - a circumstance that is hard to imagine unless the president himself is at least indirectly implicated in criminal behavior. Trump told the New York Post at the time.

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