Prosecutors Expand Manafort Charges, Add New Russian Defendant In His Case

Paul Manafort appears to be running out of ways to combat a key charge in the Mueller probe

Special counsel Robert Mueller has brought new obstruction charges against President Donald Trump's campaign chairman and a longtime associate who prosecutors have said has ties to Russian intelligence.

The indictment serves a strategic goal in raising public awareness about the connections that those who worked on Trump's campaign had with Russians, and it serves a legal objective by putting more pressure on Manafort to become a cooperating witness, said Katie Phang, a former prosecutor and partner at the Berger Singerman LLP law firm in Miami.

The new charges will factor heavily into whether U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson allows Manafort to remain on house arrest.

In the summer of 2016, Manafort emailed Kilimnik and told him to offer private briefings on the US presidential campaign to Deripaska in an effort to resolve the dispute, people close to the situation have said. The previously pending charges against Manafort of course had nothing to do with the synthetic collusion hyseteria over the 2016 election.

Manafort faces two other indictments on a laundry list of charges, including conspiracy against the US, money laundering and tax fraud.

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"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort", U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told Mueller's team. Manafort was accused of violating the gag order by co-ghostwriting an op-ed meant to make him look good in the media.

But Kilimnik directly communicated with another Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, a month before the election in 2016, according to a legal filing by Mueller in March. "However, exhibits attached to the Special Counsel's filing support the defendant's position that the mission and work of the so-called Hapsburg Group was European-focused and that the text messages cited by the Special Counsel do not establish any witness tampering".

According to court filings, after Manafort was accused in February of additional instances of secretly lobbying on behalf of a foreign government without registering as a lobbyist, he and Kilimnik repeatedly contacted the two executives to emphasize that their past work together did not involve American officials and therefore did not constitute lobbying in the United States. Kilimnik was considered by investigators to have been involved trying to set this up, according to The Washington Post last September.

Manafort could have violated federal laws if he lobbied for the ex-Ukrainian leader in the US without registering as a foreign agent.

The charges against Manafort and Gates don't relate to allegations of misconduct during Trump's campaign. He was actually charged with one count of obstruction, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

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They argue the limited amount of communications "cannot be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness". One of the witnesses in touch with Manafort this year told prosecutors he believed Manafort wanted to "suborn perjury", the previous filing said.

Friday's indictment was the first time Kilimnik has been named, having only been referred to as "Person A" so far.

He has said he met with Kilimnik in person in May 2016 and again in August 2016 in New York City, about two weeks before Manafort resigned as Trump's campaign chairman.

Kilimnik, who was born in eastern Ukraine and took up Russian citizenship after the collapse of the Soviet Union, studied English and Swedish at the Military Institute of the Russian Ministry of Defense in Moscow, which is a training ground for interpreters who work for Russia's military intelligence agency.

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