One of Paul Manafort’s lawyers regularly briefed President Donald Trump’s legal team about his client’s conversations with federal investigators as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The Times, citing Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and two other sources familiar with the conversations, said attorney Kevin Downing regularly briefed the president’s legal team about what Manafort had discussed during interviews and what angles of inquiry Mueller was investigating.
The alleged conversations happened after Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, reached a plea deal with Mueller’s team and began cooperating with his investigation. The Times notes that the backchannel, which it called “highly unusual,” may have been part of an effort to score a presidential pardon. Manafort faces charges that could land him in prison for at least 10 years.
Downing’s efforts were not illegal, but have helped fray the often fraught relationship between the special counsel’s office and the White House.
Read The New York Times’ full story here.
The alleged lies were not specified in the filing but would nullify any promises federal prosecutors made to Manafort during the plea deal established two months ago.
“A breach relieves the government of any obligations it has under the agreement, including its agreement to a reduction in the Sentencing Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility, but leaves intact all the obligations of the defendant as well as his guilty pleas,” the filing reads.
Manafort’s attorneys have denied any wrongdoing on behalf of their client.
The charges against Manafort have been thrust into the spotlight once again this week amid the special counsel’s filing and separate reports that Manafort secretly met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on multiple occasions. The Guardian on Tuesday said the pair met several times, in 2013, 2015 and around March 2016, although it’s unclear what they spoke about. Trump hired Manafort at the end of March 2016.
Through a representative, Manafort denied the meetings took place.
Separately, The Washington Post on Tuesday reported that conservative author Jerome Corsi told Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump, that WikiLeaks was planning to release damaging information on 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Corsi’s email to Stone was sent in August of that year. The special counsel’s office has been working on a plea negotiation with Corsi, although such talks have reportedly collapsed.
The Post notes that the account demonstrates WikiLeaks may play a central role in any case Mueller is building as part of his probe.
Trump himself has gone on the attack this week, regularly lambasting the Mueller inquiry on Twitter and in interviews.
“The Mueller Witch Hunt is a total disgrace,” he said in a message on Tuesday, calling the probe a “Phony Witch Hunt” in another.
“Mueller and his gang of Angry Dems are only looking at one side, not the other,” the president said. “Wait until it comes out how horribly & viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie. Mueller is a conflicted prosecutor gone rogue.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Monday’s court filing from the special counsel as a complaint.