This post was last updated on November 28th, 2018 at 12:38 pm
The Russian probe by special counsel Robert Mueller has taken another turn, coming to a familiar place, where a number of former aides to President Donald Trump have lied to the investigators. This time the former campaign chairman of Trump, Paul Manafort has been found in the same phase.
In a court filing on Monday, the special counsel’s office said that Manafort breached the plea deal he signed two months ago by repeatedly lying to the federal investigators.
In a joint status report with Manafort’s defense attorneys, Mueller’s team stated, “After signing the plea 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.”
On the other hand, the defense lawyers refused to accept that Manafort had violated the deal. Instead, in the same filing they said to believe that Manafort “has provided truthful information,” and had met repeatedly with the special counsel’s office.
In view of the deadlock between the two sides, they urged Judge Amy Berman Jackson, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, to set a sentencing date for Manafort— who has been in separate confinement at a detention center in a Virginian city, Alexandria.
The September plea deal with Manafort probably gave the prosecutors access to information that could prove useful to the Russian probe. However, a rare move in a plea deal, the Monday filing, indicated that they thought Manafort was holding back details that could prove to be apposite to the Russian investigation or other cases.
The last minute breakthrough in Manafort’s case indicates the aggressive approach of Robert Mueller in the investigations against the Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential elections, and to expose anyone in the Trump campaign who was aware of or assisted Moscow’s effort.
The Monday filing also indicated that prosecutors do not consider Manafort a reliable witness. Albeit he has provided information that helps them develop criminal cases, asserting that he repeatedly lied, the investigators could barely call him to testify.
Some have speculated that Manafort’s agreement to cooperate with Mueller’s team was in hope that the prosecutors would argue that he deserved a lighter punishment. However, the tables have turned against him.
After at least a dozen sessions interrogating him, the special counsel’s prosecutors have decided that Manafort does not deserve leniency. It is also expected that they could attempt to refile other charges that were earlier agreed to be dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
After the Monday filing, Manafort is now expected to face at least a decade-long prison term for 10 felony counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and financial fraud.
Despite controversially having deeper ties with pro-Russian figures than anyone else from the Trump campaign, Manafort had consistently denied that he had no information against the president. Legal experts said that he could have negotiated a more favorable deal, if he had been able to contribute in the progress of Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling.
A professor of law at the University of Alabama law school and former federal prosecutor, Joyce Vance said, “Everybody who lies to Robert Mueller gets called on it — so he had to know that Mueller would catch him. So the question is: What was he hiding that is worse than going to jail for the rest of your life?”
He also added, “There are often rocky dealings with a cooperator, and Mueller didn’t cut bait at the first sign of trouble. It was likely more than one lie and this would not have been a minor detail — it had to be something material and significant and intentional.”
While Robert Mueller has been struggling to find links between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks — that distributed emails and other documents, which Russian agents stole from Democratic computers before the 2016 presidential elections — Trump has been criticizing the special counsel.
The President has recently stated that the prosecutors are frustrated, as they are unable to produce any evidence against his campaign. “The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess,” he wrote on Twitter.
“They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want,” he declared. “They are a disgrace to our Nation and don’t care how many lives” they ruin.
Both sides — Robert Mueller and Donald Trump — have been making their own moves to prove their stance valid. While the special counsel is doing all that they can in the probing, the President is taking all the measures he could to safeguard himself.
Recently, Trump withdrew from a planned meeting with Mueller, after his team saw the list of questions. In lieu, he provided handwritten answers. The interview was reportedly cancelled as the White House lawyers believed that Trump might put himself in legal jeopardy by lying to investigators in a face-to-face meeting.
Trump and his team have been taking every measure to avoid Mueller’s investigation. Besides, while his lawyers fear that he could lie to the special counsel’s investigators; his former aides are already seen on that path.