WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort will make his first court appearance in months on Friday as prosecutors and defence lawyers argue over whether the former Trump campaign chairman intentionally lied to investigators, including about sharing polling data with a business associate the U.S. says has ties to Russian intelligence.
Attorneys with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office say Manafort breached his plea deal by repeatedly making false statements after he began co-operating with them in September. Manafort’s lawyers say he simply had an inconsistent recollection of facts and events from several years ago, and that he suffers from depression and anxiety and had little time to prepare for questioning on the days he met with investigators.
Manafort, who is locked up in Virginia as he awaits sentencing, had asked to skip Friday’s appearance in federal court in Washington. But Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied the request, saying he’d already been excused from several court dates.
Once a high-flying political consultant with a taste for luxury clothing, Manafort then asked for permission to attend court in a suit rather than his jail uniform. The judge granted that request.
The allegations that Manafort lied to investigators jeopardize his chances of getting leniency at sentencing.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in Washington in September and was convicted of eight financial crimes at a Virginia trial last year. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month in the Virginia case and faces years behind bars.
Friday’s court hearing may take place at least partly in private given the heavily blacked-out court filings that lawyers have exchanged. One allegation that did emerge from a poorly redacted defence filing was especially striking — that Manafort shared polling data from the 2016 campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate and co-defendant charged by Mueller, and then lied about it.
Kilimnik is not in U.S. custody and has denied links to Russian intelligence.
Eric Tucker, The Associated Press