[NOTE: On Feb 19, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]
On Sept. 14, 2018, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pled guilty to conspiracy and witness tampering. In exchange for a reduced prison sentence on those charges, as well as on tax and bank fraud convictions in a separate case, he agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He promised to tell the truth.
Then he lied. As a result, last week Judge Amy Berman Jackson voided Manafort’s plea agreement. Federal guidelines call for a 19- to 24-year prison term. Unless Trump pardons him, Manafort — who turns 70 on April Fools’ Day — will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.
Paul Manafort is the latest in the series of former Trump campaign advisers to incur criminal penalties for lying to federal investigators. The names change, but the subject of their lies remains the same: Trump’s connections to Russia. Using the name filter for the Trump-Russia Timeline reveals that, like Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen lied in an effort to hide information about three key Russia-related issues — and they suffered legal consequences for it.
#1: Lies About Russians Helping Trump Win the Election
Papadopoulos. Throughout the campaign, George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, communicated with individuals claiming to have Russian connections. They told him that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton consisting of “thousands of emails” that would help Trump win. When the FBI quizzed Papadopoulos in January 2017 concerning those contacts, he lied about them. On Oct. 5, 2017, he pled guilty to making the false statements.
Manafort. During 2016, Paul Manafort shared 2016 presidential polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a liaison to Russian oligarch and Putin confidant Oleg Deripaska. Last week, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that Manafort’s “relationship or communications” with Kilimnik is “a topic at the undisputed core” of Mueller’s investigation, and that Manafort had lied about it.
#2: Lies About Trump Softening Sanctions Against Russia
Flynn. Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn had numerous contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. Flynn was seeking to soften Russia’s response to new sanctions that President Obama was imposing for Russia’s interference with the 2016 US presidential election. When the FBI later asked Flynn about those communications, he lied. On Dec. 1, 2017, he pled guilty to making the false statements.
Manafort. During his conversations with federal investigators, Manafort apparently also lied about his discussions with Konstantin Kilimnik concerning a Ukrainian “peace plan” — which has become a euphemism for efforts aimed at lifting US sanctions against Russia.
#3: Lies About Trump Tower-Moscow
Cohen. Through at least June 2016, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater communicated about Sater’s efforts to involve senior Russian government officials and bankers in developing Trump Tower-Moscow. Cohen himself contacted Vladimir Putin’s personal press spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, and briefed Trump Organization family members about the project. Cohen and Sater even discussed plans for a possible Trump trip to Moscow. When congressional investigators later asked Cohen to describe the status of the project during the campaign, he lied about it. On Nov. 29, 2018, Cohen pled guilty to making the false statements.
People lie for different reasons. But when so many people lie to federal investigators about the same thing, they open a window into the truth.
Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
OCT. 7, 2016: Burr Joins Trump Campaign
MAY 26, 2018: Manafort Authorizes Representative to Speak with Trump Administration Official on His Behalf [previous entry deleted)
NOV. 26, 2018: Mueller Says Manafort Lied After Plea Agreement; Shared 2016 Campaign Polling Data With Kilimnik (revision of previous entry)
JAN. 24, 2019: Trump Tweets About Cohen, Clinton; Senate Subpoenas Cohen (revision of previous entry)
FEB. 12, 2019: Burr and Warner Disagree on Senate Investigation
FEB. 13, 2019: Trump Tweets About Burr’s Comment: ‘NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION’
FEB. 13, 2019: Judge Finds Manafort Intentionally Lied To Feds After Signing Plea Agreement
FEB. 13, 2019: Nadler Invites Whitaker to ‘Clarify’ Testimony
FEB. 13, 2019: The Daily Beast: Election Security Task Forces Downsized; DHS Says Election Preparations Underway
FEB. 14-15, 2019: McCabe Launches Book Tour; Rosenstein Responds; Trump Attacks
FEB. 15, 2019: Judge Enters Limited Gag Order in Stone Case
FEB. 15, 2019: Mueller Files Manafort Sentencing Memo in Virginia Case
FEB. 16, 2019: Trump Retweets About Strzok, Page, Mueller
FEB. 17, 2019: Trump Quotes Limbuagh: ‘Mueller is a Cover-up’; Tweets ‘Witch Hunt’; Retweets Attacks on McCabe
FEB. 18, 2019: Trump Tweets About Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions, McCabe, Rosenstein; Quotes Supporter: ‘Illegal Coup on the President’