White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says she’s unaware of any conversations about a potential pardon for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office accuse Manafort of lying to them. (Nov. 27)
WASHINGTON – Even after Paul Manafort pledged to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in hopes of a lighter prison sentence, his attorneys continued giving the president’s legal team updates, including what the special counsel asked about during interviews, according to a report by theNew York Times.
One of the president’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, confirmed the ongoing discussions to the Times and said he’d continued getting briefings from Kevin Downing, an attorney for Manafort, who previously served as the campaign manager for President Donald Trump.
One of the updates, Giuliani told The Times, included that Mueller’s investigators questioned Manafort in-depth about the infamous Trump Tower meeting and whether the president knew about the gathering.
“He wants Manafort to incriminate Trump,” Giuliani told the Times.
In June 2016, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton from Russia and “its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” an email to Trump Jr. about the meeting states.
No one has been charged related to the meeting but Manafort attended the meeting and could have been a witness if the president was informed.
Manafort was found guilty in August of eight criminal charges, including bank fraud. Ahead of his sentencing and a second trial in Washington, Manafort negotiated a deal with Mueller’s team to cooperate in exchange for a lighter sentence.
That deal crumbled in a very public fashion Monday evening when prosecutors on Mueller’s team accused Manafort of lying repeatedly and recommended that Manafort receive no credit to reduce his prison sentence, according to a federal court filing.
“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.
Giuliani argued to the Times that the briefings help the president’s team devise a legal strategy and give insights as to what the special counsel is focusing on in its two-year investigation.
Manafort’s discussions with Trump’s attorneys did not break any laws but could have helped crumble his deal with Mueller, the Times notes. It’s not clear how much information Manafort’s legal team has shared with the president’s attorneys, or how often they talked.
The continued briefings could point to Manafort’s hopes of a possible presidential pardon. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday said that she was “not aware” of any discussions of a pardon for Manafort.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is accusing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of violating his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to federal investigators. AP’s Eric Tucker explains. (Nov. 27)
The sharing agreement, dubbed a joint defense agreement, between Manafort and Trump is not uncommon, the Times reports, but usually, once a witness agrees to cooperate with prosecutors, they stop sharing information. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, stopped such an agreement once he took a deal with Mueller’s investigators, according to the Times.
Giuliani said he had similar agreements with attorneys for 32 others connected to Mueller’s investigation, sharing everything from what questions were asked during interviews to the documents requested as a way to keep tabs on Mueller’s investigators and the status of the probe.