Two months after Paul Manafort announced he would cooperate with Robert Mueller in his probe of Russian collusion as part of a guilty plea, the ex-Trump campaign chief has once again found himself in hot water, with a late Monday filing by prosecutors accusing Manafort of lying in the Russia investigation.
In the latest just filed Joint Status Report, Robert Mueller alleges that after signing the plea agreement, in which Manafort had agreed that if he “engages in any criminal activity prior to sentencing,” he would be in breach of the agreement, “Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s Office on a variety of subject matters”, which constitute breaches of the agreement.
As the WaPo notes, the apparent collapse of Manafort’s cooperation agreement is the latest “stunning turnaround” in his case, exposing the longtime Republican consultant to more than a decade behind bars after pleading guilty in September on charges of cheating the Internal Revenue Service, violating foreign lobbying laws and attempting to obstruct justice.
No way to know how bad this is for Mueller, but it can’t be good. Manafort will be hammered, but the public import seems to be that the special counsel has lost evidence he expected to obtain. And anything Manafort did cough up may be tainted by new charges that he’s a liar. https://t.co/wUWXZ0ImCP
— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) November 27, 2018
The court filing indicated Mueller’s team also had suffered a potential setback, after gaining access to a witness with potential knowledge of several key events relevant to the probe during his tenure with Trump’s campaign from March to August 2016, including a Trump Tower meeting attended by a Russian lawyer and the Republican National Convention.
There was no detail on Mueller’s lies in question, and instead the report said that “the government will file a detailed sentencing submission to the Probation Department and the Court in advance of sentencing that sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement herein.”
And since Manafort was found to be in breach the plea agreement, Mueller says that he should be sentenced immediately.
In response, while Manafort said that he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government’s characterization or that he has breached the agreement, he does agree that “there is no reason to delay the sentencing herein, and he asks the Court to set a sentencing date in this matter.”
Commetning on the plea breach, political commentator David Gergen said that Paul Manafort “may be reckless, but he’s not stupid. I would assume that if he’s lying, he’s doing it because there is something Very big he’s trying to hide from the prosecutors. VERY big.”
>> @David_Gergen: Paul Manafort “may be reckless, but he’s not stupid. I would assume that if he’s lying, he’s doing it because there is something Very big he’s trying to hide from the prosecutors. VERY big.” pic.twitter.com/LhbSvfAkW6
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 27, 2018
Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud over the summer and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller in September in order to avert a second federal trial in Washington. He had been cooperating with Mueller’s team for roughly two and a half months.
While it is unclear as of yet what it is that Manafort lied about, it now appears that his sentencing and incarceration will be imminent as a result. Overall, it also appears that his “cooperation” with the Special Counsel’s Office was not particularly fruitful.
The full court filing is below.