In a remarkable filing, special counsel Robert Mueller asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C. Monday to reconsider the terms of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s bail, claiming investigators found evidence he was tampering with witnesses.
The motion alleges that Manafort contacted two unnamed associates in February and April who acted as intermediaries between him and a group of pro-Ukrainian European officials referred to in the filing as the “Hapsburg group” in order “to secure materially false testimony.”
“Manafort’s obstructive conduct — carried out at a time when he was seeking relief from his current conditions of release — instills little confidence that restrictions short of detention will assure Manafort’s compliance with the court’s orders and prevent him from committing further crimes,” the motion reads.
Speaking Tuesday after the motion was filed, a Manafort spokesman denied all wrongdoing, but said defense lawyers would not elaborate until they are in court.
“Mr. Manafort is innocent and nothing about this latest allegation changes our defense,” the spokesman said. “We will do our talking in court.”
Manafort is said to reached one of the individuals by cellphone on Feb. 23, and established contact by encrypted device the following day. Phone records show he made additional attempts at contact throughout late February. The individual told investigators he understood the overture to be an effort to induce perjury. (RELATED: Papadopoulos’s Wife: Trump Aide Was ‘Absolutely Not’ Involved In Russian Collusion)
Authorities apparently recovered records of the clandestine messages because they were backed up on Manafort’s iCloud.
Another Manafort confidant, called “Person A” in the filing, allegedly contacted the other unnamed individual in February and again in April. As with the first unnamed party, the second individual interpreted the communiques as an attempt to influence their testimony.
Both anonymous persons helped facilitate the Habsburg group’s political activities on behalf of Ukraine in Europe and the United States. The special counsel claims Manafort’s failure to disclose his lobbying and public relations effort on behalf of foreign interests violated Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Investigators say Manafort planned to persuade the unidentified associates to testify that neither them nor Manafort did political work for the Habsburg group inside the U.S., undermining the alleged FARA violation.
“The evidence set forth below and in the attached declaration of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Brock W. Domin establishes probable cause to believe that Manafort has violated [federal law] by attempting to tamper with potential witnesses while on pretrial release and, accordingly, has violated the conditions of his release,” the motion claims.
The special counsel’s office argues witness tampering is generally sufficient grounds for revocation of bail and incarceration. They further say Manafort’s alleged actions jeopardize the integrity of his pending criminal trial, increase his incentives to flee authorities, and suggest he is conscious of his guilt respecting the FARA indictments.
Manafort is currently confined on house arrest, subject to a $10 million bond obligation.
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