Paul Manafort repeatedly lied to investigators even after agreeing to cooperate with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the special counsel Robert Mueller said late on Monday.
Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, breached a plea agreement he signed in September by “lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel’s office on a variety of subject matters”, Mueller said in a court filing.
Mueller did not specify what Manafort lied about, but said the lies amounted to new crimes. Investigators are no longer bound by their side of the deal, which included a reduced sentence for crimes Manafort previously admitted, Mueller said.
Manafort, 69, denied Mueller’s new allegations. “He believes he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government’s characterization or that he has breached the agreement,” Monday’s court filing said.
Both sides agreed that in light of the cooperation agreement’s collapse, judge Amy Berman Jackson of the federal court in Washington DC should proceed with sentencing Manafort, who could now face more than a decade in prison.
Mueller said his team would file a comprehensive account of Manafort’s “crimes and lies” to the court for consideration in the sentencing. Manafort has been imprisoned since June, when his bail was revoked and he was charged with witness tampering.
The latest remarkable turn in the Trump-Russia inquiry came only hours after a new attack against Mueller was posted on Twitter by the president, who has the power to pardon Manafort for any federal crimes – including those already admitted by Manafort and those alleged by Mueller on Monday.
Mueller is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, which US intelligence agencies concluded was aimed at boosting Trump’s bid for the White House, and any collusion between Russian operatives and Trump campaign team.
Trump, who has repeatedly accused the special counsel of targeting him in a “witch-hunt”, claimed on Monday: “There was NO Collusion & Mueller knows it!”
It was not immediately clear whether Mueller had suffered a setback on Monday. While the special counsel lost the cooperation of one of Trump’s most senior campaign aides, his court filing indicated that he had information that Manafort did not know he had – and that it was damaging enough for Manafort to lie about.
The “detailed sentencing submission” promised by Mueller on Monday could also allow him to disclose any evidence of collusion he has uncovered without needing to go through a formal process of reporting to the attorney general. Earlier this month Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker, a sharp critic of Mueller, as acting attorney general, after firing Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russia inquiry.
Manafort agreed in September that he would assist government prosecutors with “any and all” matters, briefing them about “his participation in and knowledge of all criminal activities”. He also agreed to turn over documents and testify in other cases.
As part of the deal, Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the US and conspiring to obstruct justice, in relation to his unregistered lobbying work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Other charges against him were dropped.
By then, Manafort had in August been convicted of eight counts in a separate fraud case brought against him by Mueller in Virginia. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced in the Virginia case in February.
Trump’s legal team claimed to have remained in contact with Manafort during the former campaign chairman’s cooperation with Mueller, which if accurate would be a highly unusual arrangement.
The collapse of Manafort’s cooperation agreement also followed the submission by the president of written answers to questions from Mueller.