Monday 27 May 2019

Trump henchman accused of witness tampering

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Dean Gray in Washington

US prosecutors have accused President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort - facing multiple charges of money laundering, bank fraud and illegal lobbying - of attempting to tamper with witnesses.

A motion submitted by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading up the main investigation into alleged Russian election meddling, said Mr Manafort had contacted witnesses by phone and encrypted text messaging for the purpose of securing "materially false testimony."

It added that such activities amounted to a violation of his bail terms, which "triggers the statutory presumption in favour of detention", meaning he could face jail ahead of his trials.

Mr Manafort has been under home confinement since he was charged in October.

According to the court document, he had sought to suborn perjury from witnesses who would be called to testify regarding the activities of the so-called "Hapsburg group" which allegedly carried out unlawful lobbying for Ukraine.

In February, the 69-year-old pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, illegal lobbying and lying, setting up the first trial to result from Mr Mueller's investigation, due to begin on September 17.

Then in March he pleaded not guilty to charges of bank and tax fraud, setting up a separate trial for July 10.

Mr Mueller's investigation has now entered its second year and continues to dominate US politics while menacing Trump's presidency.

So far the investigation has issued 22 indictments - 16 for Russian individuals and companies associated with online meddling in the 2016 election.

The remaining include Michael Flynn, Mr Trump's erstwhile national security advisor, who admitted guilt to one count of lying to investigators on December 1; Mr Manafort's long-time partner and deputy campaign chair Rick Gates and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

All three worked out plea deals and have pledged to co-operate with the investigation.

Mr Trump has downplayed Mr Manafort's role in his election and complained the FBI should have informed him his chairman was being probed.

"As only one of two people left who could become president, why wouldn't the FBI or Department of 'Justice' have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort," he asked.

"Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time."

Irish Independent

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