Manafort blasts Mueller's 'dubious' accusation of attempted witness tampering

Paul Manafort appears to be running out of ways to combat a key charge in the Mueller probe

Paul Manafort appears to be running out of ways to combat a key charge in the Mueller probe

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday denied allegations from special counsel Robert Mueller that he engaged in witness tampering.

Manafort's response begins by rubbishing the basis of Mueller's witness tampering charges as "dubious" and "very specious".

Manafort and a confidante - later revealed to be Konstantin Kilimnik in a new indictment released Friday - asked the two former business associates to claim lobbying work they did for Ukraine only happened in Europe, and not in the United States. One of the leading Russiagate voice in Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), declared that the indictment shows Manafort "worked with a Russian with reported ties to Russian intelligence" to subvert USA laws.

The indictment charges that former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and his political party retained lobbyists through Manafort to serve as intermediaries with the former European politicians. It merely restates the accusations first unveiled Monday against him and Manafort, transferring the allegations of witness tampering from a violation of the terms of Manafort's bail to two counts of obstruction of justice against both him and Kilimnik. Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to investigators earlier this year in a cooperation deal with the government.

They said Kilimnik may have reported to Russian intelligence officers in Moscow or Kiev or both on his work at the International Republican Institute office in Moscow where he was employed for a decade to 2005 and later on his work for Manafort in Ukraine.

Mr Mueller has yet to assert that Mr Manafort's Ukraine and Russian connections resulted in any election-meddling.

According to a Washington court filing earlier this week, Manafort contacted Kilimnik recently to get his help to influence two unnamed people - said to be European-based public relations consultants - in their testimony to Mueller on the so-called Hapsburg Group.

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This has not escaped the attention of Judge T.S. Ellis, who is presiding over Mueller's case against Manafort in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

When the witnesses avoided Manafort, he had Kilimnik step in and try to pass along his messages for him.

As additional criminal charges, they pose additional threat to Manafort and would extend his jail sentence if convicted - rather than simply affecting the conditions of his bail.

In emails, portions of which were read to The Washington Post, Manafort and Kilimnik appeared to discuss how Manafort could use his role with the campaign to make money.

Manafort has acknowledged staying in frequent contact with Kilimnik during the time he worked for Trump's campaign.

He was described as the intermediary through which Manafort volunteered to brief his onetime client, aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, about the Trump campaign.