Filing: Manafort accused of lying about sharing poll data with associate accused of Russian ties

Associated Press

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared polling data during the 2016 presidential campaign with a business associate accused of having ties to Russian intelligence, and prosecutors say he lied to them about it, according to a court filing Tuesday.

The allegation marks the first time that prosecutors have accused Trump's chief campaign aide of sharing information related to the election with his Russian contacts. Although the filing does not say whether the polling information was public or what was done with it, it raises the possibility that Russia might have used inside information from Trump's Republican campaign as part of its effort to interfere with the election on Trump's behalf.

The information was accidentally revealed in a defense filing that was meant to be redacted. The Associated Press was able to review the material because it wasn't properly blacked out.

In its filing, the defense was trying to rebut allegations that Manafort intentionally lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's team after agreeing to plead guilty last September. Prosecutors say Manafort breached their plea agreement by lying, but defense lawyers argued that any misstatements were simple mistakes made by a man coping with illness, exhaustion and extensive questioning from investigators.

Lawyers say Manafort suffers from depression and anxiety, has had little contact with his family and, on days when he met with investigators, was awakened before dawn to have hourslong interviews with little time to prepare for the questioning.

"These circumstances weighed heavily on Mr. Manafort's state of mind and on his memory as he was questioned at length," the lawyers wrote.

Tuesday's filing revealed the first extensive details of what he is accused of having lied about. A spokesman for Manafort's defense team declined to comment on the incomplete redactions or on Mueller's allegations, but lawyers later filed a corrected version of the document.

The filing contains new details about Manafort's connection to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian business associate who was indicted last year on charges he tampered with potential witnesses. The U.S. believes he is connected to Russian intelligence, but Kilimnik, who is not in U.S. custody, has denied those ties.

The latest allegations further detail how Manafort's work on the campaign intersected with his past international work with Kilimnik.

Emails previously reported by the AP and other news outlets show that in July 2016, Manafort told Kilimnik he was willing to provide "private briefings" about the Trump campaign to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Manafort dangled the briefings as he was mired in a dispute with Deripaska over a multimillion-dollar deal involving a Ukrainian cable company.

Through his spokesman, Manafort has acknowledged discussing the briefings but said they never occurred.

The defense document acknowledges that Manafort conceded he had met with Kilimnik in Madrid only after being told that they had traveled to the city on the same day. He also did not initially disclose having discussed a Ukraine peace plan with Kilimnik on more than one occasion during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Manafort's attorneys write that he told prosecutors in September that "he would have given the Ukrainian peace plan more thought, had the issue not been raised during the period he was engaged with work related to the presidential campaign.

"Issues and communications related to Ukrainian political events simply were not at the time forefront of Mr. Manafort's mind during the period at issue and it is not surprising at all that Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed," they said.

They say the same about his recollection of sharing polling data with Kilimnik related to the 2016 campaign.

Prosecutors have also accused Manafort of lying about his contacts with Trump administration officials, which defense lawyers also deny.

The filing says that a May 26, 2018, text message exchange with Manafort involved an unidentified "third-party" who was asking permission to name-drop Manafort if the person met with Trump. The request to use Manafort as an introduction to Trump came while Manafort was under indictment in two federal cases.

The defense team says Mueller's team has indicated that they will not pursue additional charges against Manafort. Defense lawyers say they don't want a separate hearing before a judge on the lying allegations but will address them instead during the sentencing process.

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