Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

Robert Mueller’s merry band of Democrat donors has Paul Manafort back in their sights. It wasn’t very long ago that they were trying to oppose any bail for Manafort and then they tried to keep him under house arrest. This will be their second attempt to have bail pulled for violations, the first was for him writing an op-ed for a Ukrainian newspaper which would allegedly influence a jury pool…in Alexandria, VA. Now they have accused Manafort of witness tampering.

Prosecutors say the alleged tampering is grounds to revoke the house arrest Manafort has been under or to make the conditions more stringent. Manafort has been trying for months to loosen the conditions by posting a package of real estate properties. He’s currently confined to his Alexandria, Virginia condo, except for court appearances, legal meetings, check-ins with probation, medical appointments and religious services.

Manafort’s long drive to gain more freedom appeared to be on the verge of success before prosecutors delivered their blast on Monday.

I think the entire story is right there. Manafort wants more freedom. Mueller’s team wants to inflict as much discomfort as possible. This filing is calculated to dirty-up Manafort’s request for more freedom, just like the prosecution did the last time around, and keep him under house arrest.

Prosecutors said Manafort’s efforts appeared to target people involved with the Hapsburg group, which promoted stronger ties with Ukraine. Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer have both been linked to the effort.

Prosecutors say Manafort’s effort to shape the stories of witnesses resulted in a flurry of activity in the days after a superseding indictment was made public in February containing the first allegations about the Hapsburg group.

One of the people whom Manafort tried to call “sought to avoid Manafort” and “ended the call,” according to a declaration from an FBI agent on the case, Brock Domin. Manafort tried again with an encrypted text message, stating, “This is paul.” Two days later came another text with a news article describing the allegations and another message: “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”

Mueller’s office also said that Person A, who has been previously identified as Konstantin Kilimnik, a Kiev-based operative believed to have Russian intelligence ties, separately tried to contact another person, described as Person D1, via encrypted text messages in an attempt to explain that Manafort was trying to reach him. To reach Person D1, though, Person A went through another unidentified individual, Person D2, who has told Mueller‘s team he handled press strategy for the Hapsburg group.

“Basically P wants to give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the US, and the purpose of the program was EU,” Person A said in one of the text messages Person D2.

According to the FBI affidavit, Person A tried to reach Person D2 again with another encrypted application four hours later. And one month later, Person A tried to reach out directly to Person D1.

In an interview with federal prosecutors, Person D1 told the government that they “understood Manafort’s messages to be an effort to ‘suborn perjury’ by influencing Person D1’s potential statements,” the FBI affidavit said.

“Person D1 well knew and believed from frequent interactions with its members that the Hapsburg group in fact lobbied in the United States, and that Manafort and Person A knew that fact,” the affidavit added.

Domin’s declaration says the FBI obtained many of the messages from Manafort’s associates sometime last month. The encrypted messages were sent via WhatsApp and Telegram, a summary filed by the government said. Domin said the FBI confirmed some of the messages were from Manafort by using data obtained from his iCloud account “pursuant to a court-authorized search.”

Manafort is facing two criminal cases lodged by Mueller’s prosecutors. In Washington, he is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 17 on charges of money laundering and violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act in connection with his Ukraine-related work.

This is why I think this has to be looked at as a tactic used by Team Mueller. If they were all that concerned about Manafort coaching witnesses on what to say, then they wouldn’t have given the script Manafort wanted them to follow to every news organization in the country. They are trying to make the use of encrypted email sound sinister but it isn’t. If Manafort had wanted to be sinister he would’ve used a burner phone and not stored the messages in his personal cloud server area. Regardless of the merits, Manafort comes off as incredibly arrogant and/or stupid to do anything like this while the FBI is watching his every move.

What are they trying to do?

Kurt’s the lawyer, not me, but I think the problem here is that Manafort doesn’t have anything to say that helps Mueller. I don’t believe Manafort connived with the Kremlin to get help in the 2016 election. I don’t think Manafort thought Trump had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning and he was just using his position on the campaign as a marketing tool. If you recall, a lot of us mocked the lackluster way Manafort was going about his “delegate wrangling” duties. I wrote at least 11 posts like this. I think Mueller, and in particular, the thug, Andrew Weissmann, who ran the Enron and Arthur Andersen investigations, would not be opposed to coercing Manafort into lying to show a Russia connection. At this point, Mueller would probably be happier having Trump pardon Manafort so he can say, “damn, I nearly had him” rather than prosecuting a decade old money laundering charge.