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Mueller accuses Manafort of witness tampering

Posted at 6:09 PM, Jun 04, 2018

The Special Counsel's Office has accused Paul Manafort of attempting to shape potential witnesses' testimony and has asked to send him to jail as he awaits his trial, according to a filing in DC District Court on Monday night.

Manafort is currently out on house arrest and a $10 million unsecured bail, and is awaiting a trial in Virginia scheduled for late July and a trial in DC scheduled to begin in September. He has pleaded not guilty to charges related to his failure to disclose his lobbying work for a foreign government.

Tampering with a witness is a crime in itself — and it's one Manafort has not yet been charged with.

While never naming the people who were contacted by Manafort, prosecutors describe how Manafort "repeatedly contacted" two people who worked for him and previously assisted in his lobbying and public relations efforts for Ukrainian politicians. Manafort sought to "secure materially false testimony concerning the activities of" an influential group of European leaders, called the Hapsburg group, that Manafort once used to lobby on behalf of Ukraine, the prosecutors say.

After Manafort's charges were adjusted in DC federal court related to his lobbying work in late February -- on the same day Rick Gates pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the group -- Manafort called one of the people's cell phone's and texted the person encrypted messages. "We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe," Manafort's text said. He also called the person twice the week after Gates' plea.

One of the terms of Manafort's bail and supervised release was that he not commit any crimes. Another Manafort colleague attempted to contact the employees to help Manafort get in touch with them. One of those contacts was an encrypted message that outlined Manafort's "summary," prosecutors said, "that the Hapsburg group never lobbied in the United States."

One of the people told investigators that Manafort's attempts to contact them were "an effort to get them to relay a message to the Hapsburg group: if the members of the Hapsburg group were contacted by anyone, they should say that their lobbying and public relations work was exclusively in Europe -- a representation that would be contrary" to what investigators have found, the prosecutors wrote.

The prosecutors argue that they have "little confidence that restrictions short of detention will assure Manafort's compliance" with the court and keep him from committing more crimes before his trial, the filing said.

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