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.”
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
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)
Former Potential Suspects In Alleged Jussie Smollett Attack Claim Attack Was Faked
UPDATE: Smolletts’ attorneys released a statement countering the claims of the two brothers.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.
“Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to “unnamed” sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.”
Chicago (CBS) — Two brothers who were questioned and released by Chicago police investigating the Jussie Smollett attack did play a role in the crime.
Sources say at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett’s request. The sources also say the “Empire” actor paid for the rope, which was purchased at the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store the weekend of Jan. 25.
The brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return.
They left for Nigeria later in the day on Jan. 29 after the attack.
The sources say plain red hats worn by the brothers were bought at an Uptown beauty supply store and that the attack was supposed to happen before Jan. 29.
Smollett claims two men attacked him in Streeterville early Jan. 29 as he was heading to his apartment. He said they yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, poured a chemical on him and put a rope around his neck.
The brothers are now cooperating with police.
Since being released Friday night, the brothers have been staying in an undisclosed location.
Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said:
“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation. We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Developing story, more to come…
Colin Kaepernick Reaches Settlement With NFL Over Kneeling Protest Fallout
- Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid settle collusion grievance with NFL
- Parties have resolved grievances subject to confidentiality pact
The NFL and attorneys for Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid jointly announced on Friday afternoon they have settled a complaint of collusion by the players, who claimed the league’s owners blackballed them because they had protested by kneeling during the pre-game playing of the national anthem.
“For the past several months, counsel for Mr Kaepernick and Mr Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL,” the statement read. “As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”
An arbitrator had been expected to rule over the next few weeks on Kaepernick’s grievance against the league, which he filed in 2017 under the collective bargaining agreement. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback alleged the owners conspired to keep him off the field because of his protests to draw attention to racial inequality and social injustice issues.
The filing said the NFL and its owners “have colluded to deprive Mr Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States”.
The NFLPA released a statement on Friday in support of Kaepernick and Reid, acknowledging they did not know the terms of the agreement as the players employed outside counsel.
“We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them,” the statement said. “We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract, and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Returns To The High Court After Bout With Cancer
WASHINGTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back at the court after missing oral arguments in January as she recovered from lung cancer surgery at home, a court official said on Friday.
Ginsburg, who will turn 86 in March, had been working from home and participating and voting in cases since her December surgery by reading argument transcripts and case briefs. She attended the justices’ closed-door conference to discuss cases on Friday.
While Ginsburg was expected to attend the next session of oral arguments beginning on Feb. 19, court officials could not confirm she would be on the bench next week.
Last month, the court announced that Ginsburg’s recovery was on track and that there was “no evidence” of remaining disease.
Ginsburg, who joined the court in 1993, underwent a surgical procedure called a pulmonary lobectomy on Dec. 21 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to remove two cancerous nodules in her left lung. She was released from the hospital on Dec. 25.
Ginsburg missed oral arguments in January for the first time in her lengthy career on the court, fueling speculation about her ability to continue in the job. (Reporting by Andrew Chung; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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