- A federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated his plea deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller.
- The judge found that Manafort made materially false statements to prosecutors in three out of five instances outlined by Mueller’s office.
- She also determined that Mueller’s office’s accusation that Manafort breached his plea agreement was made in good faith.
- In light of that, the judge nullified Manafort’s plea deal with Mueller and released prosecutors from any obligations outlined in the agreement.
US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Wednesday that Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign, lied to prosecutors in three out of five instances outlined by the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
Manafort lied after striking a plea deal with Mueller’s team last year, following his conviction on several counts of tax and bank fraud.
Jackson’s ruling said that Manafort made false statements to prosecutors about:
- A $125,000 payment made to a firm in 2017 related to a debt that Manafort had incurred.
- His interactions with the former Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik and Kilimnik’s role in the alleged conspiracy to obstruct justice by trying to influence the testimony of two witnesses in February.
- Information that was “pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation.”
A late November court filing from Mueller’s office accused Manafort of lying to investigators from the special counsel’s office and the FBI “on a variety of subject matters” in the two months he was nominally a formal cooperating witness in the Russia probe.
The filing said Manafort “thus relieves the government of any obligations it has under the agreement,” since the terms of the plea deal required Manafort to agree not to commit crimes during the course of his cooperation.
Manafort’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued that he did not intentionally lie to or mislead prosecutors, but that he may have misstated some details because of gaps in his memory or because some questions from prosecutors were not entirely clear in what they were seeking from him. His lawyers also disputed prosecutors’ characterization of information Manafort provided.
In her ruling Thursday, Jackson wrote that Manafort’s original plea agreement stated that “the Government shall be required to prove a breach of this Agreement only by good faith.”
Manafort signed the agreement and his lawyers also conceded later that Mueller’s accusations were made in good faith. In light of that, and following a review of documentary evidence and testimony in legal proceedings, Jackson ruled that Mueller’s office’s accusation that Manafort breached his plea deal was made in good faith.
“Therefore, the Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement, including its promise to support a reduction of the offense level in the calculation of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility,” Jackson wrote.
The ruling did not make a determination on whether Manafort “will receive credit for his acceptance of responsibility” in connection to federal sentencing guidelines, adding that the court would decide that when Manafort went to his final sentencing hearing.
Manafort has been charged twice in the Mueller probe for offenses relating to his years of work lobbying for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party in the US.
Manafort was first charged in December 2017 in Washington, DC, on 12 offenses, including money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, and obstruction of justice. He and his deputy Rick Gates were charged again in the Eastern District of Virginia on 18 counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts in February 2018.
While Gates immediately chose to take a plea deal and testify against his former mentor, Manafort went to trial. In August, a jury in Arlington, Virginia, convicted him on eight counts of tax and bank fraud, with a mistrial declared on the other 10 counts to which jurors could not come to a consensus.
Manafort was scheduled to go to trial again in September, but instead struck a deal with the special counsel’s office to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of justice in exchange for his cooperation.
Now that Manafort’s plea deal has fallen apart, legal scholars say his best bet at freedom is a presidential pardon.