Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of tampering with witnesses in his upcoming Washington, D.C., criminal trial, according to documents filed with the court late Monday.
Mr. Mueller said Mr. Manafort and an unnamed longtime associated “repeatedly contacted” two individuals “in an effort to secure materially false testimony.” The witnesses were allegedly contacted by phone, text and through an encrypted messaging program, according to the 18-page motion.
FBI Special Agent Brock W. Domin said in a declaration filed with Mr. Mueller’s motion that the two individuals were from The Hapsburg Group, a firm Mr. Manafort worked with when he was doing lobbying work on behalf of the Ukrainian government.
The alleged contact occurred while Mr. Manafort was out on bail for his upcoming trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements to investigators and tax fraud. Mr. Domin said the FBI has documents and statements from the two potential witnesses along with telephone records and documents recovered through a search of Mr. Manafort’s iCloud account.
Mr. Manafort reached out to the individuals in an effort to “influence the accounts of potential witnesses,” the special counsel said in filings.
An investigation into the witness tampering is ongoing, according to court documents.
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Mr. Mueller disclosed the allegations in a motion asking District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the Washington trial, to revoke or revise the terms of his release. If Judge Jackson agrees to Mr. Mueller’s request, Mr. Manafort would remain in jail until his September trial.
Mr. Manafort has been indicted in federal courts in D.C. and Virginia on similar but separate charges. He has pleaded not guilty in both courts and the Virginia trial is set for September.
The charges against Mr. Manafort stem from Mr. Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. However, the activities that led to Mr. Manafort’s indictment occurred years before he worked for the Trump campaign and are unrelated to the election.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied working with the Russians and called the investigation a “witch hunt.”
The president sought to distance himself from Mr. Manafort in recent days. On Sunday, Mr. Trump lashed out on Twitter against the Department of Justice and FBI for failing to tell him that Mr. Manafort was under investigation.
“As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of ‘Justice’ have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign?” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Should have told me!”
In a second tweet, Mr. Trump downplayed Mr. Manafort’s role on his campaign. Mr. Manafort only had a brief tenure as chairman before leaving in August 2016, more than two months before the election.
“Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired.” Mr. Trump said.