Monday 23 September 2019

Manafort accused of repeatedly lying to prosecutors despite deal

Facing jail: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Facing jail: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Rozina Sabur

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman has been accused of repeatedly lying to prosecutors, undermining his plea deal and potentially depriving the Russia investigation of a star witness.

Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's one-time campaign chief, agreed to co-operate with investigators looking at potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in September after being convicted of bank and tax fraud charges.

Manafort, the most senior campaign aide to be charged in the investigation to date, has repeatedly met with FBI investigators over the past two months, leading to speculation he could act as a key witness.

But Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the probe, has accused Manafort of lying to investigators and demanded an immediate sentencing date for the political strategist in a court filing. The filing suggests prosecutors no longer consider Manafort a credible witness that they can call on to testify in the future.

In a rare step, Mr Mueller's team said Manafort's "crimes and lies" relieved them of all promises they made in his plea bargain, under the terms of which he cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

Manafort's lawyers disputed the claims in the same court filing, arguing he met with investigators on several occasions and provided information "in an effort to live up to his co-operation obligations".

However, both parties agreed that a judge should set a sentencing date. The former campaign chairman, who has been in solitary confinement in a Virginia jail, is expected to face at least a decade in prison.

All the while, Mr Manafort's lawyers have been briefing Mr Trump's attorneys on what their client has told investigators, an unusual arrangement that could give Mr Trump ammunition in his feud against Mr Mueller.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani also said Mr Trump, who has recently stepped up his attacks on Mr Mueller, has been enraged by the treatment of Manafort. Mr Trump has defended his former campaign chief as a "good man" since his conviction.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: "I remain confident in the White House's assertion that the president was involved in no wrong-doing, he was not part of any collusion. The things that have to do with Mr Manafort I would refer you to his attorneys to address that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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