Washington, D.C. — Robert Mueller’s team hasn’t decided whether they’ll slap Paul Manafort with new criminal charges for breaking his cooperating agreement by lying to the FBI and investigators.
But they’re ready to tell the judge — and, possibly, the world — everything President Trump’s former campaign chairman has done wrong.
“We’re prepared to do that whenever, we’re ready,” prosecutor Andrew Weissman shot back Friday morning, after being asked by Judge Amy Berman Jackson how long the special counsel’s office would need to draft its report laying out Manafort’s alleged “crimes and lies.”
The exchange follows allegations that Manafort, president Trump’s former campaign chairman, violated his agreement to cooperate with prosecutors by lying repeatedly after he inked the deal in September.
On Monday, in a public falling out with Manafort, Mueller’s team promised a “detailed” document that “sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies.”
But the report didn’t make an appearance in court. Instead, Judge Jackson set a deadline for the new document to drop no later than Friday, Dec 7. Weissmann said the filing will cover both Manafort’s behavior before the plea deal, and afterward.
Manafort and his wife, who’d sat directly behind her husband throughout his earlier trial, skipped Friday’s hearing. And only two of his lawyers showed up, roughly half as many as usual.
By contrast Mueller’s team turned up in even greater force than usual, including prosecutors who hadn’t attended Manafort’s Virginia trial and an FBI special agent who was presented to the judge but never called upon to speak.
“We’re still debating what the consequences will be.”
Judge Jackson set a sentencing hearing for March 5 at 10:00 a.m., but said the date might shift, depending on what happens next — including whether Manafort will face fresh charges.
Even if prosecutors show Manafort committed new crimes, such as lying to federal agents or obstructing justice, he’s already facing so much jail time that it might not be “fruitful” to hit him with new charges, Weissman said.
Same goes for reviving the charges that were dismissed at the time of Manafort’s plea deal, he said.
“I think there is additional obstruction that could apply,” Weissmann told Jackson. “We’re still debating what the consequences will be.”
Manafort, 69, is widely believed to be facing jail terms that could effectively mean he ends his life in prison, after guilty pleas in both Washington DC and Alexandria on fraud and conspiracy charges that largely pre-date his role in the 2016 election campaign.
After pleading guilty in September and pledging to cooperate, Manafort then began leaking information about the Mueller investigation to the president’s lawyers, in what former prosecutors and defense attorneys have called an apparent attempt to lay the groundwork with Trump for a presidential pardon.
On Wednesday, Trump publicly dangled a pardon in Manafort’s direction, saying that while he’d never directly discussed clemency with Manafort, it’s “not off the table.”
Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, who was reportedly communicating with Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appeared more subdued than he had at previous appearances during Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, Virginia.
After the hearing, Downing stood before windows in the DC courthouse overlooking the Capitol building, raised his hands, and told assembled reporters: “We’re not taking any questions.”
Cover: 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, U.S., July 21, 2016. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)