The U.S. special counsel's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is focusing on a meeting by Donald Trump's then-campaign chairman and a business associate who prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence.
The partially redacted transcript, of a lengthy hearing that took place behind closed doors on Monday, shows that Mueller's team contended that when Manafort was debriefed by prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, he seemed to be trying to avoid providing information that could be damaging to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian national who was deeply involved in Manafort's political consulting work in Ukraine.
Andrew Weissmann, one of the prosecutors on Mueller's team, told the judge that Manafort's alleged lies about his meetings with Kilimnik were significant because they related to "what we think is going on, and what we think the motive here is".
Manafort's legal team had mistakenly revealed in an improperly redacted court filing on January 8 that Mueller's prosecutors said Manafort had "lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign". The hearing was to determine whether Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, lied to prosecutors during debriefings after he pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.
The details came in a partially redacted transcript released Thursday. It makes clear that prosecutors have homed in on the repeated contacts between Manafort and his longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the Federal Bureau of Investigation says has ties to Russia's military intelligence agency. They also disclosed that Manafort had shared polling data on the Trump campaign with Kilimnik. And Weissman was also careful to note to the judge that there were certain facts he wasn't willing to reveal in court.
Mueller got that information from Gates, according to the transcript.
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The transcript also reveals that Manafort met with Kilimnik at Trump's January 2017 inauguration, which is reportedly under investigation separately by the Southern District of NY.
Kilimnik flew on the private jet of Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska for at least one leg of the trip to attend the August 2, 2016 meeting with Manafort, Vice News has reported.
The meeting is of such interest still to the prosecutors that Manafort testified about it before a federal grand jury late past year. Manafort has denied intentionally making false statements.
Manafort's hopes for a pardon was one of several revelations in the 142-page transcript of a sealed hearing.
Jackson's ruling could affect Manafort's sentencing on two felony charges stemming from illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian interests.
However, a separate finding by Jackson that Manafort in fact lied - and did not simply have lapses of memory as his defense claims - could mean as much as 10 more years in prison for him at sentencing, now tentatively set for March 13. In that case, Manafort faces the possibility of a decade in prison.