Mueller hits Manafort with new obstruction of justice charges
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office obtained a new indictment Friday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, adding a pair of charges that he and a longtime aide alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence, Konstantin Kilimnik, obstructed justice by attempting to tamper with witnesses.
The new charges — the first public ones against Kilimnik — track with allegations Mueller’s team leveled earlier this week that Manafort and an associate tried to influence the testimony of two men involved in a public relations campaign several years ago to buff up the image of Ukraine and its president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych.
Legal experts said Mueller’s latest move could be particularly damaging for Manafort, predicting that the judge could soon rescind the former campaign chairman’s current house arrest arrangement.
“The heat is being turned up on Paul Manafort,” said Robert Ray, a former independent counsel who succeeded Kenneth Starr in the investigation of multiple scandals involving President Bill Clinton.
A source familiar with the case called the indictment “brutal” for Manafort.
“Paul’s problem is he doesn’t actually have anything to trade,” the source added. “Cooperating isn’t an option because he really didn’t collude with the Russians at the Trump campaign’s request.”
A notice posted outside a courtroom at a federal courthouse near Capitol Hill said one of Mueller’s top deputies, Andrew Weissmann, was scheduled to present the indictment at 12:30 p.m. to U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather. The indictment was made public by the court a short time later.
The indictment does not name the targets of the alleged witness tampering, but POLITICO reported Wednesday that the effort appeared connected to work performed by individuals connected to a now-defunct European public relations firm, FBC Media.
The company was run primarily by a high-profile journalist and political commentator based in Italy, Alan Friedman, and a former CNN business news producer, Eckart Sager.