WASHINGTON ― An attorney for Paul Manafort said Tuesday that the former Trump campaign manager chairman may not contest the allegation by Robert Mueller’s special counsel team that Manafort lied after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Manafort’s lawyer Richard Westling, appearing before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in a federal courthouse in D.C., said “the certainty of the hearing is less clear” following an earlier meeting with Mueller’s team. The decision about whether to contest the claims that Manafort lied, Westling said, may be influenced by “information we learned today about where this all goes.”
Mueller’s team told the court on Friday that Manafort had, among other things, lied to federal investigators after he reached a plea deal in September about his prior dealings with Trump administration officials. Those contacts reportedly took place even after his initial October 2017 indictment.
Mueller’s team said that Manafort had “authorized a person to speak with an Administration official on Manafort’s behalf” in a text exchange in May 2018 and that his documents provided additional evidence of contact with administration officials. Andrew Weissmann, an attorney with Mueller’s office, didn’t disclose any details about the allegations against Manafort.
Judge Berman Jackson set a hearing for Jan. 25 to determine whether Manafort lied, which would impact his sentencing, as well as several deadlines for filings that will disclose more information.
Manafort’s sentencing is currently scheduled for March.
Manafort, who has been in custody since June, did not appear at the hearing on Tuesday. He has previously appeared in federal court in a wheelchair. President Donald Trump has suggested that he’s open to pardoning Manafort and expressed concerns about the treatment of his former campaign manager.
Manafort attorney Kevin Downing had kept Trump’s team informed of developments in the Mueller probe as part of a joint defense agreement between the Trump and Manafort teams.
A federal jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on eight tax-related charges in August. Manafort had been facing two separate proceedings in federal courts in Virginia and in D.C. because he refused to agree to a procedural move that would have consolidated the cases.
Manafort, a veteran political operative who worked on numerous Republican presidential campaigns, has in recent years been more known for his lucrative work for Ukraine that gave him numerous ties to Russia. He sat in on the infamous Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer that was organized after Donald Trump Jr. got an email promising “dirt” on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rick Gates, a former Manafort aide and deputy Trump campaign official, has been cooperating with Mueller’s team. Gates testified against Manafort at his trial and admitted to embezzling money from his former boss. It’s unclear what evidence Gates has disclosed to Mueller’s team.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.