WASHINGTON — A federal judge has ruled that President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, breached his plea agreement by intentionally lying to prosecutors and the grand jury as part of the special counsel’s Russia probe.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on February 13 said a “preponderance” of evidence showed that Manafort lied on three different topics, including his communications with former business partner Konstantin Kilimnik.
Kilimnik, who was indicted last year on charges of witness tampering in Manafort’s case, has been accused of having ties to Russian spy agencies, allegations he has denied. He is believed to be in Russia.
The judge ruled that, by lying, Manafort breached a previous plea deal with the Mueller team, which could put Manafort at risk of a significantly higher prison sentence. The judge said those “issues, which depend on the consideration of a number of additional factors, will be determined at sentencing.”
Experts said Manafort’s sentence likely would have been capped at about 10 years under the terms of the original plea deal. He is being held pending sentencing.
Manafort’s attorneys had asserted that he did not intentionally mislead investigators but initially had forgotten some details, only to remember later.
Mueller’s prosecutors have said discussions between Manafort and Kilimnik about a Ukrainian peace plan go to the “heart” of the Mueller probe.
In previous court documents, it was revealed that one of the topics discussed by Manafort and Kilimnik was a possible “Ukrainian peace plan.”
The peace plan refers to the conflict that erupted in Ukraine in 2014, after President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country amid mass protests.
The United States and Western allies hit Russia with sanctions after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, and Moscow had sought to ease the punitive measures.
According to court filings, the peace plan was reportedly aimed at lifting the U.S. sanctions on Russia.
Manafort was convicted in federal court in Virginia in August of bank fraud and tax evasion connected to his work in Ukraine. He later pleaded guilty in a separate case to two counts of conspiracy.
In the February 13 ruling, the judge also said that the evidence backed Mueller’s allegation that Manafort lied about sharing internal Trump team polling data with Kilimnik during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The judge said Mueller’s team had not proven that Manafort intentionally lied on two other subjects.
Mueller is investigating whether there was collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies charge mounted an influence operation to sway the vote to Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump denies he colluded with Russian agents, and Moscow denies interfering in the election to help Trump.