A lawyer for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort repeatedly briefed the White House on meetings with special counsel Robert Mueller even after his client had flipped, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Kevin Downing gave the Trump camp a rundown on the line of questioning pursued by prosecutors, the newspaper reported, citing Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and two other sources.
Giuliani acknowledged that the information could potentially give Trump’s team valuable insight into a case against him, and noted that the prosecutors had been particularly interested in whether the president had advance knowledge of the infamous Trump Tower meeting between his son and several Russians in early June 2016.
Manafort could be angling for a presidential pardon in return for passing information to Trump’s lawyers, legal experts told The Times.
Manafort’s briefings have also helped reassure Trump’s lawyers that the former campaign chair hasn’t implicated the president in any wrongdoing, the Times reports.
Though not illegal, the highly unconventional briefings to the Trump camp reportedly infuriated special counsel, especially as Manafort had pleaded guilty and agreed to help their investigation.
Federal prosecutors accused Manafort Monday of breaching his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to investigators on a range of topics.
Manafort has — supposedly — been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation since he reached a deal in September, over charges related to unregistered lobbying on behalf of pro-Russian groups in Ukraine.
A month earlier, a jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on eight charges of fraud, for which he could be sentenced to a decade in jail.
Trump has repeatedly made statements suggesting he has insight into what is happening inside the Mueller investigation. “The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts,” he tweeted on Nov. 15.
He lashed out again at the special counsel’s probe on Tuesday night, tweeting that the “Mueller Witch Hunt is a total disgrace.” But in an interview with the Washington Post, he refused to discuss the Manafort situation on the record.
The Times scoop followed reporting by the Guardian that Manafort met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on three occasions, including at the height of the 2016 campaign. Both Manafort and WikiLeaks have denied the meetings ever took place, and former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, another central figure in the Russia investigation, told VICE News he didn’t “think” he discussed WikiLeaks with Manafort while he was chairing Trump’s campaign.
In separate development Tuesday, NBC News reported that a right-wing conspiracy theorist had emailed Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, giving him a heads up about an impending WikiLeaks dump of emails stolen by Russian hackers from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, two months before the emails were leaked.
“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” Jerome Corsi wrote to Stone on Aug. 2, 2016, in a reference to WikiLeaks’ embassy-bound founder Julian Assange. “Impact planned to be very damaging.”
The email is contained in draft court filing sent to Corsi by Mueller’s office, which has presented the conspiracy theorist with a draft plea agreement offering not to oppose a sentence of probation if he agrees to plead guilty to a count of lying to investigators.
Corsi has said he has rejected the offer and claims he did not intentionally lie to the investigation. According to the court documents seen by NBC, Corsi has told investigators that Stone asked him in the summer of 2016 to make contact with WikiLeaks about materials concerning the presidential campaign.
The dump of the Democratic campaign emails on Oct. 7, 2016, stolen by Russian hackers from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, may have had a significant impact on the presidential race. In July, Mueller indicted a group of Russian military intelligence officers accused of conspiring to hack Democrats, including Podesta, and leaking the stolen data to WikiLeaks.
Cover image: President Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his attorney Kevin Downing arrive for a motions hearing regarding evidence in his case at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., May 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)