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Judge Voids Paul Manafort’s Plea Deal, Stating He Lied To The FBI, Special Counsel, and Grand Jury

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NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office by lying to prosecutors about matters which are material to its Russia probe, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

The ruling concludes weeks of wrangling between Manafort’s lawyers and the special counsel over whether he had intentionally lied to prosecutors, impeding their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the Manafort case in a Washington court, found there was a “preponderance” of evidence that Manafort lied on three different topics, including his communications with his former business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, whom prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik has denied such ties.

Jackson cleared Manafort of allegations that he intentionally lied on two other subjects – Kilimnik’s role in an obstruction of justice charge and statements Manafort made about his contacts with members of the Trump administration.

Nevertheless, the ruling will almost certainly dash Manafort’s hopes of avoiding significant time in prison, as Mueller’s prosecutors are now released from their obligation to support a lighter sentence. Sentencing experts have said Manafort, 69, could face a decade in prison.

Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor, said one possible reason Manafort chose to lie was because he was hoping for a presidential pardon — echoing speculation raised by one of Mueller’s prosecutors at a court hearing last week.

“Why he lied is a great mystery unless he is covering up something of significance,” Zeldin said. “Unless he is pardoned he is going to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

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The judge found that Manafort lied about his interactions with Kilimnik including about the sharing of polling data on the Trump campaign and their discussions over a “Ukrainian peace plan,” a proposal that envisioned ending U.S. sanctions on Russia – long an important objective of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.

A court transcript released last week showed that Mueller’s team believed those lies to be “at the heart” of their investigation into potential collusion, which Trump and Russia have both denied.

In a court filing ahead of Wednesday’s ruling, Manafort’s lawyers repeated their argument that their client never intentionally lied to prosecutors and stressed that he corrected any mistakes once they were pointed out to him.

Manafort struck the deal with Mueller in September when he pleaded guilty in Jackson’s court to conspiracy against the United States, a charge that includes a range of conduct from money laundering to failing to register as a lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice for his attempts to tamper with witnesses in his case.

Manafort also faces sentencing in a separate case in Virginia where a jury in August convicted him of financial crimes including failing to pay taxes on some $16 million he pocketed for his political work in Ukraine.

Manafort lawyers have said he is suffering from depression, anxiety and gout while in detention awaiting sentencing.

Given his age and health issues. Manafort had been in a position to receive some leniency prior to Jackson’s ruling, said sentencing expert Mark Allenbaugh.

“That is gone now,” he said. “Manafort will serve a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment, maybe more, for both cases.” (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Nathan Layne; editing by Tom Brown and Sonya Hepinstall)

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Billionaire Financier David Koch Dead At Age 79 From Prostate Cancer

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(NTS) — Billionaire tycoon and controversial political activist David Koch, one of the wealthiest people in the world and a significant contributor to libertarian and conservative movements, has died after a decades-long struggle with cancer, his brother states. He was 79 years old.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David,” Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch said in a statement on Friday morning. “Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his giant personality and passion for life.”

David was diagnosed with prostate cancer approximately three decades ago, and he retreated from Koch Industries in June 2018, when his brother said David’s well-being had “continued to deteriorate” since being hospitalized in the summer of 2016. David held the title director emeritus.

“Twenty-seven years ago, David was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and given a grim prognosis of a few years to live,” Charles said. “David liked to say that a combination of brilliant doctors, state-of-the-art medications and his stubbornness kept the cancer at bay. We can all be grateful that it did, because he was able to touch so many more lives as a result.”

David Koch and his elder brother, Charles, have been an instrumental force in conservative American campaignings since the early 1980s. Their influence fundamentally originates from a fortune which centered around Koch Industries, which was established by their father Fred Koch in 1940.

Over the years, the Koch brothers have donated large quantities of money in assistance of organizations to assemble voters and to promote conservative and libertarian politicians. In 1980, David was the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate, but Republican candidate Ronald Reagan defeated he and his running mate Ed Clark.

The Koch brothers were disparaging of President Donald Trump and started a multi-million dollar campaign against his tariffs, which led to a tweet from the president last summer. “The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade. I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas,” Trump tweeted.

Two years earlier, just months before the 2016 presidential election, Trump took another swipe at the Koch brothers. “I turned down a meeting with Charles and David Koch. Much better for them to meet with the puppets of politics, they will do much better!”, Trump tweeted.

At the time of David’s death, his net worth was assessed to be $42.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine, making him the 11th richest person in the world. In 2015, the magazine ranked him as the 29th most powerful person in the world.

In addition to being a political donor, David was also a long-time philanthropist. He and his foundation bestowed hundreds of millions to cancer research and medical centers, and he served as a board member of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. He also contributed $100 million to the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, $65 million to renovate the plaza at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and $1 million to support education programs for visitors to the September 11 Memorial & Museum.

His wife Julia and their three children survive.

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Cardinal George Pell’s Appeal Denied; Convictions On Sex Abuse Will Stand

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MELBOURNE, Australia — An Australian court has confirmed convictions against the most superior Catholic to be found condemned of child sex abuse.


The Victoria state Court of Appeal by a 2-1 majority ruling published Wednesday denied Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unanimous verdicts a jury issued in December finding Pope Francis’ former finance minister condemned of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997.

At the time, Pell had just become archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city and had established an international-first reimbursement method for victims of clergical sexual abuse.

His lawyers are predicted to appeal the decision in the High Court, Australia’s final arbitrator.

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Attorney Cites Trump’s Rhetoric In National Anthem Attack On Montana Teenager

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Curt James Brockway, 39, is charged with felony assault on a minor.(Montana Department of Corrections)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The attorney for a Montana man accused of throwing a 13-year-old boy to the ground at a rodeo because the teenager didn’t remove his hat during the national anthem says his client believes he was acting on an order from President Trump.


Attorney Lance Jasper told the Missoulian newspaper that the president’s “rhetoric” contributed to 39-year-old Curt Brockway’s disposition when he grabbed the boy by the throat and slammed him to the ground, fracturing his skull at the Mineral County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

Jasper said Brockway is an Army veteran who believes he was acting on an order by his commander in chief. He adds that Brockway’s decision-making has been affected by a brain injury he suffered in a vehicle crash.

Brockway is charged with felony assault on a minor.

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