A plea deal that Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, had arranged with the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is void because Manafort repeatedly lied to federal investigators, Mueller's team outlined in a Friday court filing, expanding on earlier allegations.
"Contrary to the president's claim that all of this 'totally clears' him, the danger to Mr. Trump, his business, and his campaign has compounded significantly."
—Legal and ethics experts
Although Manafort had agreed to fully cooperate with Mueller, who is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and any coordination with the Trump campaign or administration, the memo alleges that in his interviews with Mueller's team and the FBI, "Manafort told multiple discernible lies—these were not instances of mere memory lapses."
According to the Special Counsel's Office (SCO), Manafort—who was convicted of eight counts of financial fraud earlier this year and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 5—met with federal investigators 12 times and appeared before a grand jury twice.
The partly-redacted memo (pdf) to Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court for the District of Columbia accuses him of lying about five key topics, including his contacts with Trump administration officials as well as people with ties to Russian intelligence, a payment made through a political action committee, and details of an investigation unrelated to Mueller's probe.
The news about Manafort came as Mueller and federal prosecutors released pair of memos regarding Trump's longtime fixer Michael Cohen—who is set to be sentenced next week after pleading guilty to lying to Congress and various financial crimes, including campaign finance violations he allegedly made at the direction of Trump to influence the 2016 election.
While some experts said that the prosecutors' memo means that "New York federal prosecutors concluded that the President of the United States committed a felony," Trump seemed to disagree. In a tweet posted after the Cohen and Manafort memos started making headlines, Trump declared: "Totally clears the President. Thank you!"
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) responded on Twitter:
He's going to be so mad when someone lets him know that he's the "Individual-1" implicated in a felony https://t.co/MyjC0l31Jr
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) December 8, 2018
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said in a statement that "the government's filings in Mr. Cohen's case tell us nothing of value that wasn't already known. Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero." She added: "The government's filing in Mr. Manafort's case says absolutely nothing about the president. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues."
On Saturday morning, Trump took a broader swing at the special counsel's probe, which he frequently refers to as a "witch hunt," tweeting:
AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
In a New York Times op-ed by white collar criminal defense attorney Barry Berke, CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder, and Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chairman of CREW, the trio suggested that Friday's memos could signal "the beginning of the end for Trump."
"Contrary to the president's claim that all of this 'totally clears' him, the danger to Mr. Trump, his business, and his campaign has compounded significantly," they wrote. "For all these reasons, the president is unlikely to have a restful, tweet-free weekend—or a calm 2019, for that matter."