Trump ex-campaign manager Manafort hit with new charges as Mueller probe closes in | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 08.06.2018
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Trump ex-campaign manager Manafort hit with new charges as Mueller probe closes in

Special counsel Robert Mueller has brought new charges against President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign manager and a Ukrainian associate. Paul Manafort is a figure central to the investigation into Russian collusion.

US special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday brought new charges against President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his Ukrainian associate Konstantin Kilimnik.

Both were charged in a District of Columbia federal court with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice when they allegedly sought to make contact with two witnesses earlier this year.

Read moreEuropean politicians got millions to lobby for pro-Russian government in Ukraine

Mueller reportedly asked the judge to revoke or revise an order releasing Manafort ahead of his trial later this year.

A spokesman for Mueller issued a statement on Friday saying: "A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia has returned a third superseding indictment today against Paul J Manafort Jr, 69, of Alexandria, Virginia, which adds Konstantin Kilimnik, 48, of Moscow, Russia, as a defendant and charges both defendants with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.

"The five previously charged counts against Manafort remain unchanged: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements."

The charges are not directly related to the period in which Manafort led Donald Trump's presidential campaign, from June to August 2016.

However, Manafort is known to have taken part in a  June 2016 meeting with Trump's son Donald Trump Jr and son-in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer, which had been set up to gain information on Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton.

Special counsel Robert Mueller mulls his next move (picture-alliance/AP Images/J. S. Applewhite)

Special counsel Robert Mueller mulls his next move

The Kremlin link?

The Atlantic magazine reported this week that Kilimnik has acted as an intermediary between Manafort and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close contacts to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Friday's indictment was the first time Kilimnik has been named, having only been referred to as "Person A" so far. Earlier this week, Mueller described Person A's ties to Russian intelligence as "active" during the 2016 election.

Getting the story straight 

Mueller said in a statement earlier this week the two men had tried to influence witnesses' accounts of Manafort's attempts to lobby on behalf of pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine.

The two witnesses reportedly told the FBI they believed Manafort and Kilimnik had been trying to get them to lie about their work.

Phone and encrypted messages first occurred in February, the FBI said. This was shortly after a grand jury filed an indictment against Manafort. Kilimnik also allegedly sought to contact witnesses in April.

Rick Gates, right, leaves a federal court in Washington in October 2017 (picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Walsh)

Rick Gates, right, leaves a federal court in Washington in October 2017

The earlier accusations

Prosecutors earlier this year made public evidence of a scheme by Manafort, his associate Rick Gates and others to launder money paid to them for political consulting work in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe.

Manafort is also charged with using offshore accounts to pay European politicians friendly to Ukraine.

Manafort, meanwhile, is pleading not guilty to all charges and will go on trial later this year in two federal courts. He's awaiting trial in federal courts in Washington and Alexandria, Virginia. His co-defendant Gates pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Manafort's spokesman Jason Maloni said on Friday he was reviewing the new charges.

Asked on Friday if he would pardon Manafort, Trump refused to answer.

jbh/bw (AP, Reuters)

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