Something that’s been bugging me lately: the insistence, even from mainstream media outlets, that Robert Mueller is “wrapping up” the Trump-Russia investigation. They keep talking about the investigation like Mueller is going to have this done in a month. I fell for that line of thinking a lot last year, but looking at the tea leaves at the moment… doesn’t it feel like Methodical Mueller is still going to be investigating a year from now?
One of the first indictments Mueller ever dropped was on Paul Manafort, who was the campaign manager to the Trump campaign for several months in 2016. Manafort is guilty of so many crimes – financial crimes, lobbying crimes, treasonous crimes – and he even made it through a trial, only to take a plea deal on just some of his crimes. Well, once again, it looks like Manafort can’t keep his lies straight, especially when those lies are about his meetings with Russians during the campaign.
Paul Manafort “intentionally” lied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, breaking the plea agreement that made him the star cooperator in the Russia probe, a federal judge found on Wednesday. Manafort “made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation,” including his contacts with his Russian associate during the campaign and later, Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote on Wednesday.
Jackson’s ruling is another stunning turn in Mueller’s efforts to uncover Russian interference in the 2016 election, as the first man the special counsel indicted then pursued as a potential cooperator for a year sees the end of any benefits he tried to gain through a guilty plea. Manafort was convicted of various financial crimes in August, and then cut the deal to plead guilty to two charges of conspiracy and witness tampering in September.
In all, Jackson determined Manafort intentionally lied about $125,000 he received for the legal bills, about another unnamed Justice Department criminal investigation and about his interactions with his longtime Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik while he was campaign chairman and later. Jackson noted twice in her order that two of the topics Paul Manafort lied about, Kilimnik and payments he received for his legal bills were “material to the investigation.”
Manafort is still bound by what he agreed to in the plea, so he will not be able to retract his guilty pleas. But the finding frees Mueller’s office from its contractual obligations in the plea, like asking for a reduced sentence for him because of his cooperation.
Rachel Maddow has done many segments where she’s basically reinforcing these fundamental questions: isn’t it weird that ALL of these Trump associates lie all the time about their associations and conversations with Russians? Isn’t it weird that all of these Trump associates have all decided to lie about that one thing specifically? Anyway, regarding Manafort’s lies in this particular situation, apparently the meeting with Kilimnik was about a then-potential President Trump removing all of the Obama-era sanctions on Russian banks and businesses. There were so many meetings between Trump associates and Russians on that one issue.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.