An attorney for Paul Manafort signaled to a Washington, D.C., federal judge Tuesday that the former Trump campaign chairman’s legal team might not challenge the special counsel’s allegations that he violated his plea deal.
Richard Westling, who is representing Manafort, informed U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Manafort’s attorneys spoke with prosecutors for Robert Mueller III Tuesday, and they plan to follow up with their client. Westling said it made “sense” to continue their talks with the special counsel about those allegations, suggesting they might be able to resolve some disagreements and head off a later court hearing before Jackson.
“I do think there’s some sense today that the certainty of a hearing is less clear,” Westling said.
Jackson agreed to a timetable for Manafort’s team to notify the court whether it plans to challenge prosecution’s allegations against Manafort. His defense team is expected to file with the court by Jan. 7, with all briefing on the issue wrapped up by Jan. 18. Jackson set a tentative hearing date for Jan. 25., although that could be dropped.
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The judge convened Tuesday’s hearing after Mueller’s prosecutors on Friday outlined their allegations that Manafort breached his September plea deal. In that filing, prosecutors accused Manafort of lying to federal authorities about his contact with the Trump administration, including outreach that Manafort allegedly authorized someone to make on his behalf to an administration official as recently as May.
The special counsel’s office also accused Manafort of lying about his contact with Russian national Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime associate whom prosecutors believe conspired with Manafort in an effort to tamper with witnesses this year. Mueller’s office also accused Manafort of initially misleading Justice Department prosecutors working on a probe in another district, as well as about a significant payment he made in 2017.
If Jackson agrees with prosecutors’ view that Manafort violated his deal, it could lead to a heavier sentence for the lobbyist, who, at 69, already faces the likelihood of a substantial prison sentence. On top of his September guilty plea in D.C., Manafort was convicted on eight counts of financial fraud by an Alexandria, Virginia, federal jury in August.
He’s expected to be sentenced in Virginia in February. Jackson previously set a tentative March sentencing date for Manafort in D.C.
Prosecutors have also not yet said whether they intend to bring more charges against Manafort. In a hearing in D.C. this month, top prosecutor Andrew Weissmann declined to rule out the possibility the government could bring additional charges for his alleged lies. “That determination has not been made yet,” he simply told Jackson.