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Paul Manafort Lied to Investigators in Russia Probe, Finds Judge

The judge found that Manafort did mislead the FBI, prosecutors and a federal grand jury about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik.

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Paul Manafort, Donald Trump
FILE - Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for arraignment on charges of witness tampering, at U.S. District Court in Washington, June 15, 2018. VOA

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort intentionally lied to investigators and a federal grand jury in the special counsel’s Russia probe, a judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s decision was another loss for Manafort, a once-wealthy political consultant who rose to lead Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and now faces years in prison in two criminal cases brought in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The four-page ruling hurts Manafort’s chance of receiving a reduced sentence, though Jackson said she would decide the exact impact during his sentencing next month. It also resolves a dispute that had provided new insight into how Mueller views Manafort’s actions as part of the broader probe of Russian election interference and any possible coordination with Trump associates.

Manafort’s mystery man

Prosecutors have made clear that they remain deeply interested in Manafort’s interactions with a man the FBI says has ties to Russian intelligence. But it’s unclear exactly what has drawn their attention and whether it relates to election interference because much of the dispute has played out in secret court hearings and blacked out court filings.

Donald Trump, Russia probe
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort intentionally lied to investigators. VOA

In her ruling Wednesday, Jackson provided few new details as she found there was sufficient evidence to say Manafort broke the terms of his plea agreement by lying about three of five matters that prosecutors had singled out. The ruling was largely a rejection of Manafort’s attorneys’ argument that he hadn’t intentionally misled investigators but rather forgot some details until his memory was refreshed.

The judge found that Manafort did mislead the FBI, prosecutors and a federal grand jury about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, the co-defendant who the FBI says has ties to Russian intelligence. Prosecutors had accused Manafort of lying about several discussions the two men had including about a possible peace plan to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict in Crimea.

During a sealed hearing last week, Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said one of the discussions — an Aug. 2, 2016, meeting at the Grand Havana Club cigar bar in New York — went to the “larger view of what we think is going on” and what “we think the motive here is.”

“This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel’s Office is investigating,” Weissmann said, according to a redacted transcript of the hearing. He added: “That meeting and what happened at that meeting is of significance to the special counsel.”

Meeting with Gates

The meeting occurred while Manafort was still in a high-ranking role in the Trump campaign. Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime deputy and also a Trump campaign aide, attended. And prosecutors say the three men left separately so as not to draw attention to their meeting.

Donald Trump
The judge found that Manafort did mislead the FBI, prosecutors and a federal grand jury. Pixabay

Weissmann said investigators were also interested in several other meetings between Kilimnik and Manafort including when Kilimnik traveled to Washington for Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. And Manafort’s attorneys accidentally revealed weeks ago that prosecutors believe Manafort shared polling data with Kilimnik during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Wednesday, Jackson found that in addition to his interactions with Kilimnik, there was sufficient evidence that Manafort had lied about a payment to a law firm representing him and about an undisclosed Justice Department investigation.

But she found there wasn’t enough evidence to back up two other allegations. The judge said prosecutors failed to show Manafort intentionally lied about Kilimnik’s role in witness tampering or about Manafort’s contacts with the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018.

Waiting on Russian

Kilimnik, who lives in Russia, was charged alongside Manafort with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He has yet to appear in a U.S. court to face the charges.Manafort’s sentencing is set for March 13. He faces up to five years in prison on two felony charges stemming from illegal lobbying he performed on behalf of Ukrainian political interests.

ALSO READ: US Taxpayers Unhappy With Trump’s Tax Cuts

Separately, he faces the possibility of a decade in prison in a federal case in Virginia where he was convicted last year of tax and bank fraud crimes. Sentencing in that case was delayed pending Jackson’s ruling in the plea-deal dispute. (VOA)

Next Story

Facebook Working to Re-elect Donald Trump, Says Billionaire Philanthropist Geroge Soros

"As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear."

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Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

The billionaire philanthropist George Soros has slammed Facebook, accusing the social networking giant of helping to re-elect Donald Trump in the 2020 US election.

“Facebook will work to re-elect Trump and Trump will protect Facebook,” the 89-year-old said during a speech at a dinner hosted by his non-profit Open Society Foundation at Davos on Thursday, reports Politico.

“It makes me very concerned about the outcome of 2020,” Soros added.

Reacting to his outburst, a Facebook spokesperson said: “This is just plain wrong”.

At the dinner speech, Soros called Trump “the ultimate narcissist”, and Xi Jinping a “dictator”, while praising Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Soros also announced he will launch “the most important project of my life” — a $1 billion investment in “critical thinking” via a new network of colleges.

Judge, Trump, Moral
FILE – President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, Nov. 4, 2019. VOA

Earlier this month, Facebook Vice President Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth claimed that it was the social networking giant that got Donald Trump elected as the US President in 2016 because “he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser”.

In a memo obtained by The New York Times, the key Facebook executive in the same vein suggested that the platform with over 2.45 billion monthly active users should not use its enormous reach to block Trump”s reelection in 2020.

“He (Trump) didn’t get elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica. He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period”, said Bosworth who runs Facebook”s hardware group.

“Trump just did unbelievable work,” Bosworth wrote.

Also Read: Amazon Asks Judge to Block Microsoft from Pentagon Project

“As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.”

Facebook also announced it will show fewer political ads to people on its platform and Instagram, starting with the US which faces Presidential elections this year, but won’t ban or limit those as Twitter has already done and Google to some extent. (IANS)