Lawyers for Paul Manafort denied that the former Trump campaign chairman conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign in a court filing submitted Monday.
“As said at the beginning of the case, there is no evidence of Russian collusion,” Manafort’s legal team said in the filing, which sought a lenient sentence for the longtime GOP operative.
Manafort could face up to 24.5 years in prison on a slew of charges related to his consulting work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The longtime GOP operative, who joined the Trump campaign in April 2016, was convicted in federal court in Virginia on Aug. 21, 2018 on tax evasion and bank fraud charges related to millions of dollars he earned from the Ukraine work. Manafort pleaded guilty on Sept. 14, 2018 in a case handled by the special counsel to charges that he conspired against the U.S. government by failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine.
Manafort met numerous times with prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller after entering the plea agreement. He also testified twice to a grand jury hearing evidence in the investigation. But prosecutors have since accused Manafort of violating the plea agreement by lying to the FBI and special counsel’s team about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Manafort business partner who is believed to have links to Russian intelligence.
Kilimnik has long been considered a key figure in any election-related conspiracy involving Manafort.
Prosecutors have referred in court hearings to an Aug. 2, 2016 meeting that Manafort and Kilinmik had in New York City. Andrew Weissmann, the lead prosecutor handling the Manafort case, said that the meeting “goes…to the heart” of the special counsel’s probe, which was initially tasked with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. (RELATED: Special Counsel: Manafort’s Meeting With Suspected Russian Operative ‘Goes…To The Heart” Of Russia Probe)
Manafort, who will be sentenced on March 6, also sent Kilimnik emails in which he offered to provide “private briefings” to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who was locked in a business dispute with Manafort at the time of the 2016 campaign.
But as Manafort’s legal team noted, Manafort has not been accused of conspiring with Russia.
“In October 2017, unable to establish that Mr. Manafort engaged in any Russia collusion, the Special Counsel’s Office charged Mr. Manafort in the District of Columbia with crimes that did not relate to Mr. Manafort’s work on the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and generally involved his employment years ago by Ukrainian oligarchs, politicians and the Party of Regions.”
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