Manafort continued Ukraine work in 2018, prosecutors say

Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort looks on during Trump's walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland US

A top prosecutor in the special counsel investigation into 2016 election interference has told a federal judge that a summer 2016 meeting in ny between then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a man described as a former Russian intelligence officer strikes at "the heart of what the Special Counsel's Office is investigating", a newly released court filing shows.

Manafort "lied about an extremely sensitive matter", Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, told a judge at a February 4 hearing.

According to the transcript, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said the substance of the meeting, which took place in NY just weeks after the Republican National Convention, goes to the "larger view of what we think is going on" and what "we think the motive here is".

At another point in the transcript, a prosecutor tells the judge that one of Manafort's motives for lying to investigators about something he told to Rick Gates, another former Trump aide who is cooperating in the probe, was that he was trying to "augment his chances for a pardon".

Mueller contends that Manafort lied about the number of times he and Kilimnik discussed the topic, the description of which is mostly redacted in the transcript. A second sealed hearing on the matter is set for next week.

Legal analyst Luppe Luppen speculated on Twitter that, in a redacted portion of the transcript, prosecutors may have listed the possibility of a presidential pardon as an "unusual factor" in Manafort's plea agreement.

Mueller is investigating whether there was collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation, which US intelligence agencies charge mounted an influence operation to sway the vote to Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

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Manafort has said he never lied to prosecutors. He also was convicted by a jury in August in a separate federal case in Virginia for bank and tax fraud crimes.

Kilimnik, who was indicted a year ago on charges of witness tampering in Manafort's case, has denied having ties to Russian spy agencies.

Mueller got that information from Gates, according to the transcript.

Weissmann also noted that at the August 2016 meeting of Kilimnik, Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates took pains to leave separately - at a time when contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation were of utmost interest.

The August 2016 meeting with Kilimnik also mattered to prosecutors because the Federal Bureau of Investigation has linked Kilimnik to the Russian intelligence service, the GRU, Weissmann said. This, quite directly, implies that Trump has an interest in one of his former aides engaging in a criminal cover-up - a circumstance that is hard to imagine unless the president himself is at least indirectly implicated in criminal behavior.

One of the discussions took place in person in January 2017 when Kilimnik was in Washington for Trump's inauguration, the filing said. Trump told the New York Post at the time.

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