WASHINGTON, FEB 14 — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, breached his plea agreement by intentionally lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI and the grand jury.
Manafort “intentionally made multiple false statements” concerning matters related to Mueller’s probe into the alleged Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, said Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
At a closed-door hearing, the judge said there was a “preponderance” of evidence that Manafort lied on three different topics, including his communications with his former business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, according to local media reports.
The ruling voids the federal government’s obligations under Manafort’s plea deal to offer him leniency in exchange for his cooperation in the Mueller probe. It also means that Manafort will not be credited for his cooperation with prosecutors.
The charges against Manafort largely stem from his time working for a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine years before the 2016 U.S. elections. They do not directly address any alleged collusion between Trump associates or officials and the Russian government, which the Mueller team has been investigating since May 2017.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the Mueller probe as a “rigged witch hunt.”
Manafort, aged 69, was a veteran Republican lobbyist. He joined Trump’s campaign team in March 2016 and spent three months as Trump’s campaign chairman until mid-August of that year. He was convicted in a Virginia federal court trial on charges of tax and bank fraud last year and pleaded guilty in Washington D.C. on others.
Manafort was scheduled to be sentenced in Washington D.C. on March 13. Local media said he was also awaiting a sentencing date in Virginia. – XINHUA