Paul Manafort tampering with witnesses, say Mueller investigators

Paul Manafort tampering with witnesses, say Mueller investigators

Federal prosecutors have accused Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and lobbying case.

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

One of the witnesses told investigators recently that Manafort wanted them to commit perjury about a lobbying effort they worked on for him in the U.S., the filing said.

The two witnesses are not named in court filings. The special counsel subsequently asked a court to revoke or revise Manafort's conditions of release.

Manafort faces several felony charges in two federal cases.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty. He was indicted in Virginia on tax and bank fraud charges dating back to 2005 and 2007 and, in Washington, DC, on charges of failing to formally declare his lobbying efforts for the Ukrainian government between 2006 and 2015.

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According to the court filing, Manafort began messaging and calling one of the witnesses in February shortly the unsealing of the indictment that included the allegations of unregistered lobbying related to the Hapsburg group.

Berman Jackson said that a review of the search and seizure warrant affidavits themselves and a "consideration of the pleadings" from both sides led her to the conclusion that Manafort's motion to compel should be denied.

In one call, the agent wrote, Manafort said he wanted to give the witness a "heads-up about Hapsburg". However, he could not quite manage to do that, as that person hung up on him, telling the investigators that he was concerned by the sudden outreach. I think, however, they were doing a number on Trump himself.

The day after the Superseding Indictment was made public, Manafort also sent Person D1 a text message on an encrypted application, stating "This is paul".

"Manafort and Person A - who is a longtime associate of Manafort's - repeatedly contacted Persons D1 and D2 in an effort to secure materially false testimony", according to a motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The person believed from his experience that the Hapsburg group lobbied in the United States and knew that Manafort knew that as well, the agent wrote.

A witness tampering charge, like lying to the FBI, can be used as evidence to show a guilty mind and may be "enticing to a jury", said one former federal prosecutor.