Just weeks after a Virginia judge nearly dismissed some of the charges against former Trump campaign executive Paul Manafort, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed a superseding indictment of Manafort accusing him of witness tampering. He has also asked a federal judge to consider revoking Manafort's bail.
Prosecutors accused Manafort and a longtime associate - described only as "Person A" but, according to the Washington Post, is believed to be Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian associate of Manafort's - of repeatedly contacting two members of a public relations firm and asking them to testify falsely about secretive lobbying they did for Manafort.
The firm whose employees were allegedly the targets of Manafort's harassment is identified only as "the Habsburg Group," allegedly a nickname bestowed by Manafort. It was retained by Manafort in 2012 to help with his lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine. Which makes us wonder: Could this firm be the Podesta Group? After all, we know they did work with Manafort on that campaign.
In court documents, prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III allege that Manafort and his associate — referred to only as Person A — tried to contact the two witnesses by phone and through encrypted messaging apps. The description of Person A matches his longtime business colleague in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik.
Manafort, 69, has been on home confinement pending trial.
FBI agent Brock W. Domin said that one of the public relations firm’s executives identified as Person D1 told the government he “understood Manafort’s outreach to be an effort to ‘suborn perjury’ ” by encouraging others to lie to federal investigators by concealing the firm’s work in the United States.
Spokesmen for Manafort and the special counsel’s office, who are under a court gag order in the case, declined to comment.
Instead of presenting an actual legal threat, the indictment reads like an attempt by Mueller to send a message to Manafort: If he continues to refuse cooperation, Mueller will try and take away his freedom for the duration of the trial. And as WaPo reminds us, this is the second time prosecutors have complained about Manafort's behavior while he awaits trial. Last year, investigators said they had intercepted emails showing Manafort had ghostwritten an editorial defending his actions that ran in a Ukrainian newspaper. The charges were filed as part of Manafort's Washington case, which involves charges of filing misleading lobbying disclosures.
As for Kilimnick, whose name popped up earlier in the investigation due to his connection to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, it's unlikely the special counsel will ever be able to make an arrest, seeing as he lives in Ukraine. The indictment is a gesture - like Mueller's indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three entities for their involvement in a "troll farm" that allegedly try to sway the election. Mueller just needs to remind the public that he's keeping busy, while justifying the expense of the investigation.
Read the full superseding indictment below: