Mueller probe: Manafort, Russian fixer Kilimnik charged with obstruction

President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for a court hearing in Washington D.C. on May 2

The motion, released Friday, criticized Mueller's allegations that Manafort - a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump - had tampered with witness evidence, calling them a "dubious" plot meant to "corruptly persuade" Manafort's former business associates to "perjure themselves at the upcoming trial in September".

The document formally charges Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, who ran Manafort's office in Ukraine and has alleged ties to Russian intelligence, with witness tampering in the case. He has pleaded not guilty. It also argued that Manafort's use of multiple phones shouldn't be grounds for suspicions, pointing out that he often traveled to regions "where communications are routinely hacked".

"By 2011, Kilimnik had taken over Manafort's office in Kiev".

Prosecutors already claimed that Manafort misled federal authorities for years about his lobbying work in the U.S. for Ukrainian politicians before he joined the Trump campaign. His trial in Virginia is scheduled to begin in late July. He joined the Russian Army as a translator, work that closely aligned him with the army's intelligence services - an account pieced together from a handful of people who worked with him or were briefed on his background, including a former senior CIA official with direct knowledge of Kilimnik's activities.

Manafort's lawyers filed a response Friday that "the Special Counsel contrives dubious allegations".

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According to a Washington court filing earlier this week, Manafort contacted Kilimnik recently to get his help to influence two unnamed people - said to be European-based public relations consultants - in their testimony to Mueller on the so-called Hapsburg Group.

The charges mark the second time since October that an indictment against Manafort has been amended to include additional allegations. A witness told investigators recently that Manafort wanted them to commit perjury about a lobbying effort they worked on for him in the USA, a filing in DC District Court said. He is under house arrest and awaiting trial after having been charged with bank fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and other crimes.

Closer scrutiny of this "evidence" reveals that the Special Counsel's allegations are without merit because Mr. Manafort's limited communications can not be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness.

"Conspiracy is. But if Trump's campaign chair conspiring with a suspected Russian operative isn't "collusion, ' what is?" It isn't clear yet whether Kilimnik might appear in court in Washington. He has said he met with Kilimnik in person in May 2016 and again in August 2016 in New York City, about two weeks before Manafort resigned as Trump's campaign chairman.

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