WASHINGTON – Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied repeatedly to the FBI, violating a plea agreement with Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who is recommending that Manafort receive no credit to reduce his prison sentence.
The development suggests that Manafort now faces severe punishment for both his August conviction in an Alexandria federal court and for a separate guilty plea in the District of Columbia were promised to cooperate with Mueller’s team to avert a second trial.
In the D.C. case alone, Manafort faces the prospect of perhaps a decade in prison, unless he is pardoned by President Donald Trump.
“The government will file a detailed sentencing submission… that sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement herein,” prosecutors said in a brief court filing late Monday.
“As the defendant has breached the plea agreement, there is no reason to delay his sentencing,” prosecutors said.
Manafort was convicted on eight counts of financial fraud in an August trial where the jury deadlocked on 10 other counts. Those undecided counts were later dismissed.
Manafort’s August trial in Virginia was the first contested prosecution brought by Mueller.
Since striking a deal to cooperate with Mueller’s team in September, Manafort had been meeting with prosecutors in what authorities had hoped would benefit the continuing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Manafort’s was not convicted in either Virginia or the District of Columbia of participating in the election interference campaign. But his oversight of the campaign and his participation in key meetings, including a 2016 Trump Tower gathering of top campaign advisers with a Russian attorney promising damaging information on then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, made him a potentially valuable witness as Mueller’s team probed deeper into the Trump campaign’s possible coordination with Russia.
“A breach (in the September plea agreement) relieves the government of any obligations it has under the agreement, including its agreement to a reduction in the sentencing guidelines for acceptance of responsibility, but leaves intact all the obligations of the defendant as well as his guilty pleas,” prosecutors said in court documents.
Manafort’s legal team asserted that their client had lived up to his promise to cooperate with prosecutors during a series of meetings.
“After signing the plea agreement, Manafort met with the government on numerous occasions and answered the government’s questions,” defense attorneys contended in court documents. “Manafort has provided information to the government in an effort to live up to his cooperation obligations. He believes he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government’s characterization or that he has breached the agreement.”
Citing the government’s conflicting position, defense attorneys also agreed that there is “no reason to delay” sentencing in the D.C. case.
A separate Feb. 8 sentencing already has been set in the Virginia case.
Manafort’s decision to cooperate in the related D.C. case immediately raised expectations that Mueller’s team would be carried further into Trump’s inner circle by a once-trusted adviser who had deep access to the then-candidate’s political strategy.
Asked in September whether Manafort’s deal included an agreement to provide information related to President Donald Trump, defense attorney Richard Westling said his client had pledged “complete cooperation.”
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