Defense lawyers for Paul Manafort denied in court papers made public Tuesday that the onetime Trump campaign chairman lied to prosecutors about his contact with the Trump administration and a Ukrainian associate, broadly contesting special counsel Robert Mueller’s claim that Manafort violated his plea deal.
In the court filing, defense lawyers brushed aside the idea that Manafort intentionally lied to federal authorities during the course of his cooperation. But Tuesday’s filing—thanks to an error redacting portions of the text—also revealed several areas of interest to the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
The defense attorneys said Manafort had shared polling data on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime associate with ties to Russian intelligence. They also noted that Manafort had met with Kilimnik in Madrid, while Manafort had served as Trump’s campaign chairman, and the two discussed a so-called Ukrainian peace plan.
Manafort’s attorneys said their client did not intend to mislead the government about those interactions with Kilimnik, instead writing it was “not surprising at all” that Manafort could only recall specific details about issues related to Ukraine after having his recollection refreshed.
“The simple fact that Mr. Manafort could not recall, or incorrectly recalled, specific events from his past dealings with Mr. Kilimnik—but often (after being shown or told about relevant documents or other evidence) corrected himself or clarified his responses—does not support a determination that he intentionally lied,” they said.
The lawyers’ assertions came as questions swirled around whether Manafort would challenge allegations he breached his plea deal by repeatedly lying to federal authorities during the course of his cooperation.
In the filing, Manafort’s attorneys told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who has presided over Manafort’s case, that a hearing on the allegations was not necessary. They instead suggested that “any necessary factual determinations” be addressed in the presentencing report process.
The government is expected to respond to Manafort’s filing by Jan. 14 with the “factual and evidentiary basis of the five alleged breaches.” Jackson said Tuesday she may hold a hearing Jan. 25 after reviewing the special counsel’s and Manafort’s filings.
Other sections of the filing, submitted under seal Monday, were also improperly redacted in Tuesday’s version of the filing, allowing the text to be lifted from the document with a few keystrokes.
In a separate portion of the filing, Manafort’s defense lawyers challenged the government’s claim that he lied about his contact with the Trump administration. The special counsel’s office said in December that Manafort had “authorized” a person to speak with an administration official on his behalf, pointing to a text exchange dated May 26, 2018.
Manafort’s attorneys said Tuesday that prosecutors had overblown the exchange, contending that it was instead a “third-party asking permission to use Mr. Manafort’s name as an introduction in the event the third-party met the president.”
In text that was meant to be blacked out, the defense lawyers said the May 2018 exchange “does not constitute outreach by Mr. Manafort to the president.”
They also challenged prosecutors’ earlier assertion that Manafort had told a colleague in February 2018 that he was in touch with a senior Trump administration official. Manafort’s lawyers, in an apparent reference to the colleague whom prosecutors cited in that assertion, dismissed that statement as hearsay.
“The second example identified by the special counsel is hearsay purportedly offered by an undisclosed third party and the defense has not been provided with the statement (or any witness statements that form the basis for alleging intentional falsehoods),” the lawyers wrote.
Manafort’s lead defense lawyer, Kevin Downing, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment.
Mueller’s office in December also claimed that Manafort initially misled federal prosecutors probing a criminal matter in another district and that he lied to investigators about a significant payment he made in 2017. Manafort’s defense team said in their filing that they have not received any witness statements to support that claim.
The lawyers revealed that Manafort, who is currently being held in solitary confinement in Virginia, has suffered from depression and anxiety and has had little contact with this family—all circumstances they suggest might have affected his ability to cooperate with federal authorities.
“These circumstances weighed heavily on Mr. Manafort’s state of mind and on his memory as he was questioned at length,” the lawyers wrote.
They stated that their client, who appeared in a wheelchair during a hearing in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal court last year, also has suffered from gout.
When the special counsel’s allegations first surfaced, Manafort’s lawyers sought to downplay the claims, writing in their December court filing: “Manafort has provided information to the government in an effort to live up to his cooperation obligations. He believes he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government’s characterization or that he has breached the agreement.”
Jackson initially told lawyers she needed more information about those alleged lies.
If Jackson agrees with prosecutors that Manafort violated his deal, it could lead to a longer sentence for the lobbyist, who at 69 already faces the specter of substantial prison time.
Manafort was convicted in August on eight counts of tax and bank fraud by a federal jury in Alexandria. He will be sentenced there in early February.
Prosecutors have not indicated whether they intend to bring more charges against Manafort. In a late November hearing in Washington, top prosecutor Andrew Weissmann did not rule out the possibility the government could bring additional charges for Manafort’s alleged lies.
Read the filing from Manafort’s attorneys here: