本帖由 ccc 于 2017-07-24 发布。版面名称：渥太华华人论坛
(CNN) Paul Manafort has worn many hats: an international political operative, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Trump confidant Roger Stone's business partner and now government witness.
In a deal with the special counsel's office, Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring against the US for his undisclosed foreign lobbying work and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
As part of the deal he will have to admit to any crimes he has knowledge of or has committed beyond the tax, financial and undisclosed foreign lobbying matters covered in his deal and he will be required to cooperate with any investigation or grand jury inquiry. The plea deal specifically says Manafort is required to "cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly with the Government."
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who brought the charges against Manafort, is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election, and related matters. He was also authorized by the Justice Department to investigate "allegations that Paul Manafort committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials" as part of the Kremlin's effort to influence the presidential race.
Manafort's many roles could aid investigators examining several areas:
Russian election interference
Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and was its chairman from May until he resigned that August after reports about his lobbying work with the pro-Russia Ukrainian political party became public. As a member of the campaign when Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Manafort could shed light on the campaign's foreign policy strategy and contacts with Russians.
Manafort attended the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that Donald Trump Jr. agreed to after being promised "information that would incriminate" rival candidate Hillary Clinton. Several participants told lawmakers under oath that the meeting veered into Russian adoptions and the Magnitsky Act, a US sanctions law targeting human rights violators.
Manafort offered to provide a briefing on the campaign the following month to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to The Washington Post. Manafort emailed an intermediary asking that a message be sent to Deripaska, the Post reported.
"If he needs private briefings we can accommodate," Manafort wrote, according to the Post, which cited portions of a July 7, 2016, email read to the newspaper.
Deripaska has known Manafort for a long time. He invested millions with Manafort a decade ago in a failed cable deal. The deal went south and Deripaska has since sued Manafort. The 2010 tax return for a Manafort-controlled company indicated that Deripaska lent him $10 million, according to an FBI affidavit filed in court.
Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort's business partner in his Ukrainian lobbying effort, was the intermediary between Manafort and Deripaska, according to The Washington Post. The special counsel's office described Kilimnik in court filings as having active ties to Russian intelligence services. Kilimnik himself has denied any association with Russian intelligence.
He was indicted along with Manafort for allegedly contacting witnesses in an attempt to interfere with the investigation. While Manafort was a member of the campaign, others also made contact with Russians, although it isn't clear what Manafort knew about any other contacts.
Manafort met with Kilimnik twice while working on Trump's campaign in 2016, according to The Washington Post and Politico. Jason Maloni, Manafort's spokesman, told the Post, "It would be neither surprising nor suspicious that two political consultants would chat about the political news of the day, including the DNC hack, which was in the news."
Manafort is a longtime business partner of Roger Stone, who served as an informal adviser to Trump and was briefly involved with the campaign. Mueller's investigators have questioned some of Stone's associates over the past several months about the 2016 hack of Democratic National Committee servers -- in which Russian hackers stole thousands of documents, according to US intelligence, and WikiLeaks then posted more than 20,000 internal DNC emails -- and any communications with WikiLeaks.
Stone claimed in 2016 to have a "back channel" to WikiLeaks and seemed to predict some of the email dumps that roiled the final stretch of the presidential campaign and damaged Clinton. He was also referenced, although not by name, in the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents as having communicated with Guccifer 2.0, the online persona used by Russian intelligence officers. Stone himself was not accused of any wrongdoing.
He has denied any collusion with Russians. Following Manafort's plea, he issued a statement: "I am uncertain of the details of Paul's plea deal but certain it has no bearing on me since neither Paul Manafort or anyone else can testify truthfully that I am involved in Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration or any other illegal act pertaining to the 2016 election."
What does he know about the Trump dossier?
There are still many unanswered questions regarding the infamous dossier written in 2016 by former British spy Christopher Steele, which alleges widespread collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. CNN has reported that investigators corroborated some aspects of the dossier, but it's still unclear whether any of the explosive claims in the memos have any merit.
The memos mention Manafort several times and accuse him of leading a collusion conspiracy. His lawyers have denied there was any collusion. But if Manafort can shed any light on the dossier memos, investigators would want to know. The FBI considered Steele a reliable source, but investigators can bolster any collusion case if Manafort can corroborate any of the claims.
Mueller's prosecutors referred to the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York inquiries on other individuals involved in the Ukraine lobby efforts, including Democrat Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group, former Republican Rep. Vin Weber of Mercury LLC, and the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Manafort's guilty plea includes the most direct allegation by the special counsel's office that the lobbying firms Manafort hired knew they were working for Ukrainian politicians and not an independent nonprofit group. Mercury and Podesta filed as lobbyists but did not file as foreign agents until after Manafort's Ukrainian lobbying efforts were uncovered by reporters in 2016.
Representatives for Podesta and Mercury have said they cooperated with the special counsel's investigation.
Podesta Group said it had relied on certifications from a nonprofit that it was independent from the Ukrainian politicians and filed as lobbyists. A spokesman for Mercury said they waived attorney-client privilege to allow prosecutors to see their full exchange with their attorneys, who advised them to file as lobbyists but not foreign agents.
Skadden did not return calls for comment.
It's possible prosecutors would seek Manafort's cooperation in ongoing investigations into the lobbyists, the law firm and Kilimnik.
Why was the GOP platform changed?
Mueller's team wants to know more about the decision at the 2016 Republican National Convention to change the party platform regarding Ukraine, according to a list of Mueller's questions for Trump that was published by The New York Times. While the platform was being drafted, Trump campaign officials stepped in to block a provision about arming Ukraine to fight Russian-backed militias.
Speculation immediately fell to Manafort, because of his vast experience working for pro-Russia interests in Ukraine. But in television interviews at the time, Manafort denied that the campaign played any role in changing the language. Now that Manafort is required to cooperate with investigators, they'll likely pose these questions to him, and see if he has more to offer than what he said on TV.
What about Papadopoulos?
Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was told by a Kremlin-linked professor that the Russians had dirt on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails," months before their existence was publicly known. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, has denied that he told anyone on the campaign about the emails. But the young foreign-policy adviser was wishy-washy in a recent interview with CNN, saying he "can't guarantee" it didn't happen and that it "might have" happened, but he doesn't remember.
It's already known that Papadopoulos told others on the campaign about his efforts to broker a meeting between Trump and Putin. Manafort was even copied on some of the emails about it, and was open to sending "someone low level" to Russia, but not Trump. If Papadopoulos did in fact tell the campaign about the emails -- which Manafort might know -- it would undercut all the denials.
川普马上会说 manafort 是个小人物，过两天就表示不认识他了
"The President today answered written questions submitted by The Special Counsel's Office. The questions presented dealt with issues regarding the Russia-related topics of the inquiry. The President responded in writing,” Jay Sekulow, Counsel to the President told ABC News in a statement.
"I write the answers. My lawyers don't write answers," Trump said last week when asked by reporters about the special counsel’s questions. "I was asked a series of questions, I answered them very easily."
In returning his written answers to Mueller, the president capped a months-long negotiation with the special counsel over the subject and quantity of questions relevant to the Mueller’s mandated investigation of Russian meddling during the 2016 campaign.
"It has been our position from the outset that much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry. This remains our position today. The President has nonetheless provided unprecedented cooperation. The Special Counsel has been provided with more than 30 witnesses, 1.4 million pages of material, and now the President's written responses to questions. It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion,” Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney told ABC News in a statement.
ABC News previously reported that the president spent several days last week huddling with his legal team to prepare his answers, which focus largely on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump told reporters last week that he was concerned investigators might be using the questions to try to catch him perjuring himself.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images, FILE
Robert Mueller, special counsel on the Russian investigation, leaves the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017.
Despite repeatedly expressing a willingness to sit down for an in-person interview with special counsel prosecutors, Trump told “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend that he has “probably” ruled it out, though he reserved the right to change his mind.
Over the course of his 18-month long probe, Mueller and his team of prosecutors have secured indictments against 32 individuals and three Russian businesses on charges ranging from computer hacking to financial crimes.
Those indictments have led to six guilty pleas and three people sentenced to prison. A former campaign aide and three former Trump campaign officials – including his onetime national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign chairman Paul Manafort – are among those who have pleaded guilty.
Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, sources say
Trump, the most powerful man in the world who crafted a self-flattering image as the ultimate strongman boss, is in a deeply vulnerable spot and appears to feel cornered and in increasing peril.
He has no choice but to watch as Mueller, an adversary whose discreet public profile makes him an elusive target, grinds away, apparently getting ever closer to Trump's inner circle and perhaps even to the President himself.
"The Mueller investigation is what it is. It just goes on and on and on," Trump told The Washington Post Tuesday when asked about his relentless, unseen foe.
Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani offered a hint of the toll being inflicted on Trump behind the scenes when he told CNN's Dana Bash the President had been "upset for weeks" about "the un-American, horrible treatment of Manafort."
While the White House refuses to budge from its denial of collusion between Trump and Russia in 2016, a string of events now coming to light is stretching the notion that this is all one harmless coincidence to the limit of credulity.
In the space of a few days, it emerged that Manafort's cooperation deal collapsed after Mueller accused him of lying on multiple occasions.
The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Manafort met Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is accused of blasting out emails stolen by Russian spies to attack Hillary Clinton, on a number of occasions in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Both Manafort and Wikileaks have issued strenuous denials of the report -- Manafort called it "totally false and deliberately libelous" and Wikileaks was "willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange."
The paper's sourcing was also vague, making it difficult to assess the veracity of the reporting. So for now, joining the dots cannot produce definitive conclusions.
CNN later obtained draft court documents Tuesday with which Mueller plans to show how Trump associate Roger Stone allegedly sought information and emails from Wikileaks using another operative, Jerome Corsi, as a go between.
In another development, CNN contributor Carl Bernstein reported Tuesday that Mueller's team has been investigating a meeting between Manafort and Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in Quito in 2017 and has specifically asked if WikiLeaks or Assange was discussed in the meeting, according to a source with personal knowledge of the matter.
Such is the secrecy around Mueller's investigation that no one outside knows what he knows. The special counsel has yet to lay out any case against Trump or his close associates on either alleged collusion or obstruction of justice.
If there is such supporting evidence, it is not clear that Mueller would be able to prove malicious intent by Trump. But all of the recent developments suggest that the special counsel has penetrated deeply into the events surrounding the troubled 2016 election.
In his dismissal of a cooperation agreement with Manafort, for instance, Mueller's team said it has evidence to prove the former lobbyist lied "on a variety of subject matters" -- a fact that alone must leave Trump wondering about the extent of his knowledge.
There was immediate speculation that Manafort's apparent attempts to mislead Mueller amounted to an implicit plea for a pardon from the President. The White House said there had been no talk of such a step. But adding to speculation that Manafort is angling for a pardon, Giuliani told Bash that the two legal teams had been in contact. This also raised the possibility that Trump has a genuine window into Mueller's progress, another factor that might explain his recent anger.
The New York Times reported that the cooperation between the two legal teams had inflamed tensions between the special counsel and Manafort's lawyers.
Former Watergate special prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Tuesday that if the report of Manafort-Assange meetings was correct it would be extraordinary.
"What in the world would Mr. Manafort be doing meeting with Julian Assange if not to talk about Assange's role as a cut out for disseminating information the Russians obtained by illegal hacking?" Ben-Veniste said.
It was not clear whether Manafort's alleged lies dealt with the reported meeting with Assange. But given that the fugitive Australian is confined to his hideaway in the embassy, he or his hosts are likely under surveillance, intelligence that Mueller would likely be able to access.
Mueller is not the only potential threat to the President interested in the deepening questions. Democrats, poised to take power in the House, are already gearing up to reinvigorate a congressional investigation on Russia.
"A meeting with Julian Assange would be the smoking gun," said Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee.
The House Democratic majority could eventually pose a grave threat to Trump's presidency and represents a devastating erosion of the force field of political protection so far offered by the GOP majority on Washington power -- another possible reason for his mood.
In the long term, any sustained dip in Trump's popularity -- his disapproval rating climbed to 60% in Gallup's weekly tracking poll -- could even eventually raise questions about the solidity of his standing among Senate Republicans that has so far always been seen as impenetrable.
The latest drama around Manafort is even more tantalizing given the possibility that the collapse of the cooperation agreement could prompt Mueller to reveal more about his tightly private investigation.
Special counsel prosecutors plan to detail Manafort's alleged lies in a number of areas in a sentencing memo that could be filed with the court in the coming weeks.
Mueller has used indictments and court filings throughout his tenure to embroider a rich picture of Russian intelligence hacking, a social media campaign to disrupt the election and cozy ties between Manafort and pro-Russian political figures in Ukraine.
So expectations will be high ahead of his filing if it is done in public.
"Without releasing a report, without another indictment, Mr. Mueller would be in a position to reveal a lot of information that we would all find very interesting about his investigation in open court," said Ben-Veniste.
Such a filing is also now seen in Washington as a potential way around any attempt to disrupt a final report of the Russia investigation by Trump's acting-Attorney General Matt Whitaker.
The new focus on the man picked to succeed the sacked Jeff Sessions may also point to another possible spur for the President's current fury.
Trump has often seemed to know more about the probe than is available, and it's possible that Whitaker, who is now in charge of overseeing Mueller, has read him in on the inside story of the investigation.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he's never discussed pardoning his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but it's "not off the table."
In an interview with the New York Post, Trump asked rhetorically: "Why would I take it off the table?" The comment drew swift condemnation from a top Senate Democrat, and it renewed concerns from Trump critics that the president would wield his vast pardon power to protect his friends and supporters caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
The comments came just days after Mueller's team said Manafort had breached his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to investigators on a variety of topics, an allegation Manafort denies.
In the interview with the Post, the president also praised conservative author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, who recently rejected a plea offer from Mueller's team. Trump said Corsi, Manafort and his longtime associate Roger Stone are "very brave" for resisting Mueller's investigation.
Manafort made a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, who now says Manafort lied to investigators, in breach of his plea agreement. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
In response to Trump's comments, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said that if Trump pardons his former campaign chairman, it would be a "blatant and unacceptable abuse of power."
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said in a tweet that the presidential pardon power is not a "personal tool" that the president can use to protect "himself and his friends."
Meanwhile, Manafort's lawyers have been briefing Trump's attorneys on what their client has told investigators, raising the prospect that he is pursuing a close relationship with the president in hopes of a pardon.
In recent weeks, the president, armed with information provided by Manafort's legal team, has seized on what he believes are dirty tactics employed by the special counsel, accusing investigators of pressuring witnesses to lie.
Neither Manafort nor Mueller's team has said what Manafort is accused of lying about. But a federal judge set a hearing for Friday in which she will hear from both sides about next steps in the case. That hearing could yield new details about the dissolution of the not even three-month-old plea agreement as well as result in the setting of a sentencing date for Manafort.
Manafort faces up to five years in prison on the two charges in his plea agreement — conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He faces a separate sentencing in Virginia, set for February, after he was convicted on eight felony counts during a trial last summer.