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This Is the Biggest Takeaway from Mueller’s Tease of Paul Manafort’s ‘Lies’


Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday evening filed an account of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s alleged “multiple, discernible lies” to investigators. While Mueller appears to have gone into great detail here, we don’t know what those details are since the document was heavily redacted.

The heavy redactions, as legal observers have been quick to note, are the biggest takeaway from Mueller’s Manafort filing. Mueller saw fit to file the Manafort document under seal in order to redact details. Judge Amy Berman Jackson gave Mueller the go-ahead and what resulted was a very incomplete picture of Manafort’s wrongdoing.

Recall: this is the document that Mueller had to file to support his allegation that Manafort lied in breach of a cooperation agreement he signed with the special counsel. This agreement came together after Manafort was found guilty of eight tax and bank fraud felonies back in August but before Manafort’s second scheduled trial in D.C.

That trial never happened. What happened instead were hours and hours of interviews with the special counsel and the FBI, as per Manafort’s deal.

Mueller had already said that Manafort’s “lies” were “principally” related to his contact with Trump Administration officials and a Russian named Konstantin Kilimnik. Team Manafort then failed to redact the accusation that Manafort lied to investigators about sharing 2016 Trump campaign polling data with Kilimnik, adding a new element to the public’s knowledge of the investigation.

Kilimnik, who is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence, was charged by Mueller for obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges for allegedly tampering with witnesses. Manafort was also charged for witness tampering.

Manafort’s attorneys have said that Mueller has no proof Manafort intentionally lied to investigators, and attributed Manafort’s answers to needing his memory refreshed. Robert Mueller, on the other hand, has said he is prepared to prove that the “lies” Manafort told were not a case of misremembering and “were not instances of mere memory lapses.”

Although Mueller did not show his hand, he did provide a justification that explains why the ongoing Manafort saga remains shrouded by a degree of mystery.

“The government seeks to seal Attachment A (including its exhibits) and make the redactions reflected in Attachment B and its exhibits because the redactions relate to ongoing law enforcement investigations or uncharged individuals,” Mueller said in a filing dated Jan. 15. “Public discourse of certain information in the submissions could unduly risk harming those efforts.”

Attorney and CNN legal analyst Ross Garber remarked that while the chatter surrounding Mueller’s expected Russia report is all well and good, but it’s a key point that Mueller is concerned about protecting “ongoing law enforcement investigations.”

“Prosecutor speak for more indictments,” he said.

This is significant in its own right, but it also adds to a series of recent developments that pushes back against the idea that Mueller will submit his Russia report in February.

As Law&Crime reported Tuesday, former Manafort associate and Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates’ sentencing has been delayed again as he continues to cooperate in “several ongoing investigations.” Mueller asked the court for another 60 days until he can file another status report in that case.

The extension of Mueller’s grand jury for another six months, though seen as standard operating procedure, was another move that suggested Mueller is not quite done. The broadness and scope of Mueller’s investigation (investigating potential presidential obstruction, alleged Russian hacking, accused Russian troll farms, a number of individuals associated with the Trump campaign etc.) is another aspect to take into account.

Others have mentioned that the Mueller probe is still under two years old, a small number when compared to other special counsel investigations in American history.

[Images via Alex Wong/Getty Images, Alexandria Detention Center]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.