The highest-ranking Trump employee who agreed a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller has gotten himself into further trouble. Former campaign manager Paul Manafort has, according to Mr Mueller, failed to comply with his settlement agreement by lying in front of the FBI.
It is not yet clear what 69-year-old Mr Manafort has lied about in recent months. But the fact that Mr Mueller, who investigates the alleged collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia, likely loses a prominent witness, could be very good news for the US President.
Reportedly, the special prosecutor is in the final phase of the investigation. It may be completed in the coming months. Last week, it was announced that President Trump answered written questions from Mueller and his team. The president, however, refuses to be questioned in person by the special prosecutor.
Related coverage: Trump Slams Mueller And Fake News Media Over Manafort Reporting
The disappearance of Manafort as an important witness now opens the door for Trump's lawyers to further portray Mr Mueller and the Russia investigation as unreliable. Without mentioning Manafort, Trump immediately opened the attack on Mueller on Tuesday. "The witch hunt that has now cost thirty million dollars goes on and on," the President stated, "The only thing that has produced it, are lives that have been destroyed."
On the other hand, the president should not cheer too soon, because Manafort may have already told the special prosecutor’s team about that have subsequently been confirmed by other sources.
Manafort led Trump's election campaign in 2016 for a few months. He was indicted by the special prosecutor last year, along with several other campaign employees. Manafort chose to agree to a plea deal.
A month before he had been found guilty of, among other things, tax and bank fraud, further criminal offenses came to light during Mueller's investigation. In exchange for his cooperation, Manafort prevented a second lawsuit against him for money laundering.
The former Trump employee committed these offenses long before 2016 when he worked as a lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Some of the 70 million dollars he earned between 2010 and 2014, were transferred to foreign accounts.
Related coverage: Trump ‘Very Easily’ Answers Mueller’s Russia Questions
The other Trump employees who decided to cooperate with the investigation also did this after they had been caught for criminal offenses from their own past or for lying to the FBI (or members of Mueller’s team). Thus far however, none of the former Trump campaign employees have been sued by the special prosecutor for collusion with Moscow to win the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort versus Mueller
The possible exclusion of Manafort as a witness in the investigation was revealed on Monday in an indictment of the special prosecutor.
According to Mueller, Mr Manafort lied about 'various things,' a claim the latter denies.
The end of the plea deal may mean that the former campaign manager ends up behind bars for at least ten years.
Manafort is now in jail because he violated the conditions of his house arrest earlier this year. According to Mueller, he tried to approach another witness. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani immediately made use of Mueller's apparent conflict to use Manafort’s previous statements.
According to Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, the end of the settlement shows that the special prosecutor is trying to get information ‘at any cost.’
“Is it conceivable that [Manafort] and Jerome Corsi, who is saying Mueller’s people are pressuring him to lie, are telling the truth and the special counsel in their zeal to get the president may be going too far,” Giuliani said.
The bickering between Mueller and Manafort, according to some experts, increases the likelihood that the former campaign chief will be kept out of prison by the president.
Both Giuliani and Trump have not ruled out that Manafort could receive a presidential pardon if he is convicted. It is furthermore striking that the President never attacked Manafort ever since he was charged, even after he agreed to a plea deal with Mueller.
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