Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Mueller charges Manafort's right-hand man Konstantin Kilimnik

Mueller charges Manafort's right-hand man Konstantin Kilimnik

A new indictment linked to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation Friday charged former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with obstruction of justice.

The indictment, filed in Washington, D.C., charges Manafort and Kilimnik with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The two individuals were members of the "Hapsburg group", described by Mueller in the February superseding indictment of Manafort as "a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States".

Kilimnik, who isn't in the US and didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, has denied any links to Russian intelligence.

They also say the allegations that he and an associate tampered with witnesses involved in his criminal case are based on "scant" evidence.

Yet Manafort and the public relations people had brought the Hapsburg group to the USA to speak with members of Congress about the interests of Viktor Yanukovych, a former Ukrainian president who had jailed a political rival, while posing as independent voices, prosecutors said earlier this week.

Kilimnik remained in contact with Manafort during the period when Manafort was serving as chairman of Trump's presidential campaign in 2016. Friday's indictment does not change the counts already against him.

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted that Manafort "came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time". They said nothing governing the terms of their client's pretrial release prevents him from having contact with anyone, that the encrypted-messaging apps Manafort used are commonplace and that he didn't ask anyone to produce a false affidavit or false testimony at trial. Well, now the Grand Jury has itself determined that Manafort did just this. Five have pleaded guilty.

Manafort has maintained his innocence despite all of the charges brought before him.

Donald Trumps former campaign chairman leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing
Jose Luis Magana AP FILE

Legal experts say Manafort's alleged efforts to convince witnesses to assert that the Hapsburg Group had only been active in Europe would have allowed Manafort to argue he had not violated FARA.

The witnesses told investigators that they "understood" that Manafort was reaching out to influence the testimony, according to court papers.

Manafort is now under house arrest, awaiting trials scheduled for Virginia and Washington, D.C., later this year.

February 23 is the date that Manafort's longtime associate, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to two charges stemming from the Mueller investigation.

Mr Trump made the comment at the White House on Friday morning (local time). "Indeed, previously", Manafort said.

Manafort also faces trial on related tax and bank fraud in Alexandria, Va.

Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence asset, is now under the protection of Moscow and unlikely to ever see an American court room.

"They haven't been convicted of anything", Trump said, telling the media that he hasn't given any thought to the notion.

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