Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is considering bringing more criminal charges against Paul Manafort, after it accused the former Trump campaign chairman of violating his plea deal to cooperate with prosecutors.
The announcement came at a half-hour court hearing Friday morning, where Manafort’s team learned that his sentencing for conspiracy and witness tampering will happen on March 5, 2019.
The hearing came just days after special counsel prosecutors said they believe Manafort lied during his interviews with investigators following his guilty plea in September. The special counsel’s office may have to turn over evidence backing up its claim in the coming weeks.
Such a move could give Manafort’s legal team, and in theory, President Donald Trump’s lawyers if they are still in touch, a new window into some of the information Mueller has collected during the investigation.
Manafort pleaded guilty earlier this year to two charges of conspiracy and witness tampering, while publicly admitting he committed several other financial and lobbying crimes. He separately was found guilty by a jury in Virginia of eight financial fraud charges related to his Ukrainian lobbying proceeds.
Lead prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said the Justice Department is evaluating whether Manafort could still be held liable for crimes he’s admitted to but is not currently charged with in federal court.
“I don’t know at this time. We will have to evaluate whether it will be fruitful to take action” on those crimes, Weissmann said.
Manafort is currently in jail in Alexandria, Virginia. He did not attend the hearing Friday; two defense attorneys were there on his behalf.
Since his initial indictment last October, Manafort has been a thorn for prosecutors and, at times, for the judge.
While he still claimed his innocence in the case, prosecutors indicted him for attempting to contact potential witnesses to shape their stories. He then went to trial in Virginia federal court, holding off prosecutors from making a deal. After he lost his case at trial, Manafort changed his plea and agreed to cooperate with investigators. But that cooperation now appears to be tainted with the lying accusation – another unusual turn of events.
Manafort says he believes he was truthful with investigators.
“We have … had lengthy conversations with the defense to discuss the facts,” related to Manafort’s alleged lies during his cooperation, Weissmann said. “They’re aware the gravemen of what the concerns are.”
Both legal teams will hash that out in court soon, with filings beginning to come in next week about the facts of how Manafort’s cooperation fell apart.
Despite the dispute over whether Manafort breached his plea deal, the two parties struck a cordial tone in the courtroom.
When things wrapped up, lawyers from both sides wished each other “happy holidays,” sometimes shouting across the room, as people started filing out of the chilly courtroom.
Gag order on lawyers
Friday’s hearing in Manafort’s case could have been filled with fireworks. But instead, it was a hashing out of plans and procedures that set up clashes between the attorneys for the coming months.
Amy Berman Jackson of the US District Court has been a harsh critic so far of Manafort’s legal maneuvers. She reprima