Paul Manafort is in trouble.
President Trump’s former campaign chairman lied to investigators after he signed a sweeping agreement in September to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the campaign’s ties to Russia, Mueller’s team told a judge on Monday.
The special counsel’s office now believes that Manafort’s “crimes and lies” render his cooperation agreement void, the document says.
“After signing the plea agreement, Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s Office on a variety of subject matters, which constitute breaches of the agreement,” the document reads. “The government will file a detailed sentencing submission to the Probation Department and the Court in advance of sentencing that sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement herein.”
The introduction of new federal crimes will likely put Manafort in a worse position than he'd be in if he hadn't agreed to cooperate in the first place, legal experts told VICE News.
“Manafort will likely end up in a worse situation than he would have if he didn’t cooperate,” said Renato Mariotti, a former prosecutor turned white-collar defense attorney.
“This is a disaster for Manafort.”
Indeed, Manafort may face a more severe punishment for breaching his agreement with the government. He's been in solitary confinement in a detention center in Alexandria, Virginia, for the past few months, awaiting sentencing.
Manafort pleaded guilty in September to a range of primarily bank and tax fraud charges, after losing the first of two court battles brought against him by Mueller’s prosecutors.
On Monday, Manafort rejected Mueller’s findings. The joint status report filed in the case on Monday said that Trump’s former campaign chief believes he lived up to his end of the bargain.
“Manafort has provided information to the government in an effort to live up to his cooperation obligations,” the document said. “He believes he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government’s characterization or that he has breached the agreement.”
“The worst-case scenario as a cooperator is to plead guilty and then have it blow up like this.”
Manafort is no stranger to risky legal games. In August, defense attorneys warned that Manafort appeared to be taking on unnecessary risk by holding out on striking a plea deal with Mueller’s team. His decision to seek a deal only after losing a courtroom battle in front of a jury had likely put him in a worse situation than if he’d copped a deal at the outset, they said.
Now, he seems to have compounded that legal jeopardy, experts said.
“This is a disaster for Manafort,” said Harry Sandick, a former prosecutor and now a defense attorney. “The worst-case scenario as a cooperator is to plead guilty and then have it blow up like this. He’s now pled guilty to all these crimes, but he won’t get the government’s support in his sentencing.”
Read the complete document below:
Cover image: Paul Manafort (right), campaign chairman for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his assistant Rick Gates stand on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo