I have previously written about the reported contacts of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and White House or Trump team members. If true, it was a remarkably reckless act on both sides and could further jeopardize confidentiality protections. Now, in a response to Manafort, Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a redacted account of Manafort’s alleged false statements and non-cooperation to prosecutors. The most interesting item from my perspective was confirmation that the Special Counsel is supplying what it says is direct proof that Manafort misrepresented or lied about the contacts with the Trump team.
As I discussed earlier, these contacts would make a long line of blunders pale in comparison. In the prior filings, Mueller alleged that Manafort communicated directly and indirectly with Trump administration officials, including a “senior” official. If Mueller believes Manafort was coordinating his withholding of information or lack of cooperation, then it could be construed as the same range of collateral crimes from obstruction to subornation to witness tampering. Moreover, since there is a crime fraud exception to attorney client privilege, this allegation could lead to losing confidentiality over these meetings and force lawyers for Trump to take the stand to answer the allegations. It gives Mueller a line of attack that he did not have based on the original allegations.
Now the redacted filing reaffirms that Manafort lied to prosecutors about his contacts with the Trump Administration in front of the grand jury. The prosecutors alleged that Manafort stated that he had no contact “with any member of the Administration and did not try to have such contact.” However, the filing states that “evidence demonstrates that Manafort’s statements were false.” The evidence includes a text exchange from May 2018 in which an unnamed individual says that he or she has an impending meeting with President Trump and asks Manafort, “If I see POTUS one on one next week am I ok to remind him of our relationship?” Manafort replies “Yes. Even if not one on one.”
Again, it would be an incredibly moronic move by Manafort. However, this is the same individual who was found to have violated his home confinement conditions in allegedly pressuring potential witnesses over the phone from his home on their accounts. Despite being burned on such calls, Manafort proceeded to make damaging statements on monitored prison lines. In other words, it would not be out of character. However, it is breathtaking that any lawyer on either side would create a back channel with a cooperating government witness to learn non-public details, developments or inquiries in a federal investigation.