Robert Mueller’s Russia probe has a new indictee: a former Russian spy

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

Mueller initially leveled witness tampering accusations against President Donald Trump's former campaign manager in a motion to revoke or revise Manafort's pretrial release conditions filed on June 4.

The indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Washington marks the first such charges for Manafort's associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is believed to be in Moscow and therefore likely safe from arrest, because Russian Federation does not extradite its citizens. Mr Mueller has said Mr Kilimnik has links to Russian spy agencies, an allegation Mr Kilimnik denies.

The Hapsburg group's work is one of several operations prosecutors say Manafort directed as part of a covert lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukraine, its then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, and the pro-Russian Party of Regions.

The case now accuses both Manafort and Kilimnik, 48, of Moscow, of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, meaning they allegedly worked together to contact two possible witnesses in Manafort's case since February. His co-defendant, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Kilimnik also reached out to witnesses in April. The spokesman, Jason Maloni, said Friday that Manafort and his attorneys were reviewing the new charges.

Manafort has doggedly asserted his innocence as prosecutors have released waves of evidence of an alleged scheme by him, Gates and others to launder money they were paid for political consulting work in Ukraine, Europe and elsewhere.

For Manafort though, the charges come at a perilous time, just hours before his lawyers were due to file legal briefs explaining why he should be allowed to remain free on bond pending his trial scheduled for next month in Alexandria, Virginia. The person identified as D1 said the contacts seemed like an effort to "suborn perjury" because he knew the information Mr. Manafort said he wanted to share was inaccurate.

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Prosecutors allege that a Russian partner of Manafort's, Konstantin Kilimnik, helped him try to persuade witnesses to lie to the jury when Manafort's case comes to trial in Washington, D.C., this autumn.

The superseding indictment revealed on Friday makes clear that the Justice Department considered the alleged tampering serious enough to file formal charges and add a new defendant.

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

"Mr. Manafort asked no one to provide a false affidavit or false testimony at trial, or perjure themselves, and he has not given - nor offered to give - any potential witness anything in exchange for false testimony", the response said.

The witnesses would eventually rat out Manafort and Kilimnik to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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