WASHINGTON – A federal judge set a tentative hearing for Jan. 25 to hear disputes about whether Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, breached his plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Defense lawyers said they need more time to evaluate five subject areas of alleged lies that prosecutors outlined Friday in a court filing.
District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the filing didn’t provide enough information for her to draw conclusions.
Manafort is a key figure in Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election because he served as a top aide in Trump's campaign and because he had long-standing business ties to Russia.
Manafort was convicted by a federal jury in Virginia of banking and tax charges stemming from representing a pro-Russia faction in Ukraine. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice in Washington, which is where the plea agreement was at issue in Monday's hearing.
Defense lawyer Richard Westling said his team received more information Monday from the government about the allegations of lying and expected to receive more. He said the lawyers needed to meet with Manafort to discuss the allegations in detail, to determine which of them to contest – if any.
Jackson set a schedule for the defense to file its disputes Jan. 7, for the government to reply Jan. 14 and for a potential hearing Jan. 25. The goal for both sides informally is to finish before the sentencing Feb. 8 in the Virginia case, which is scheduled before the sentencing March 5 in the D.C. case.
“It’s hard to anticipate the issues” that might arise in that sentencing, said prosecutor Andrew Weissman.
The lawyers were responding to allegations from Mueller, who voided a plea agreement Nov. 26 with Manafort by saying he repeatedly lied to investigators.
The disputes covered Manafort's interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national also under indictment for work with Manafort in Ukraine; a $125,000 wire transfer, and Manafort's contacts with senior Trump administration officials, according to the 10-page filing.
Manafort met with prosecutors and FBI agents on 12 occasions, including three before entering the plea agreement, according to the filing. He also testified at a grand jury on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2. Prosecutors informed Manafort's lawyers Nov. 8 that they "believed that Manafort had lied in multiple ways and on multiple occasions."
Jackson decided Friday to allow Mueller to file some details about the lies under seal. The accusations about Kilimnik are largely blacked out.
Rather than having Manafort’s lawyers file a written response, Jackson held a hearing.
Mueller's team voided the plea agreement Nov. 26, accusing Manafort of trying to mislead prosecutors investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In revealing the collapse of the plea deal, prosecutors signaled that they had learned enough during the special counsel's 18-month investigation to determine that Manafort was lying. Mueller and his team still have the cooperation of Manafort’s top deputy, Rick Gates; Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Cohen will be sentenced Dec. 12 for lying to Congress and for making hush payments to women alleging they had extramarital affairs with Trump. Flynn was set to file a response Tuesday to prosecutors asking for no prison time when he is sentenced Dec. 18 for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians during the transition.
But Manafort was a key figure in the Russia inquiry. He was Trump's campaign manager from March until August 2016, during a crucial part of the campaign when Trump secured the Republican nomination and the GOP held its convention in Cleveland.
Manafort came to the campaign with a history of dealing with Russians and attended the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower during which the attendees were to discuss information promised to damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
A jury convicted Manafort of eight bank and tax fraud charges in August related to what prosecutors described as a multi-year scheme carried out while working as a consultant to a pro-Russia faction in Ukraine. Sentencing in that case is scheduled Feb. 8.
In a separate case in federal court in D.C., he pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Sentencing in that case is March 5.
Kilimnik was indicted in July with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to get other witnesses to not cooperate with authorities investigating Manafort. Kilimnik worked in Kiev with Manafort, who represented the pro-Russia government of President Victor Yanukovych from 2006 until he fled to Russia in 2014.
Manafort continued to have a joint defense agreement with Trump even as he said he was cooperating with Mueller. Trump, who has criticized the Mueller probe as a "witch hunt," kept open the possibility he could pardon Manafort and called him a "brave man."
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” - make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Paul Manafort: Judge sets tentative hearing Jan. 25 to hear disputes about plea agreement