Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, indicted in October on a dozen charges, including conspiracy against the United States in connection with lobbying work he conducted for Ukraine, now stands accused by federal prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller of secretly trying to coax witnesses against him to provide false testimony.
In the midst of the highest-profile, most scrutinized criminal inquiry in modern history, the former lobbyist for dictators allegedly decided it was a good idea to use the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp to shape potential witnesses' testimonies, according to a filing in D.C. District Court. The two witnesses are not named in court filings, but prosecutors say they worked with Manafort in organizing a group of former European officials who lobbied within the U.S. without registering.
“Manafort and Person A ― who is a longtime associate of Manafort’s ― repeatedly contacted Persons D1 and D2 in an effort to secure materially false testimony concerning the activities of the Hapsburg group,” the court filing reads. Manafort also allegedly made calls on his own, as NPR reports:
The motion says that after the indictment was made public, Manafort called Person D1 on a cell phone, but that the potential witness “sought to avoid Manafort” and “ended the call.”
The documents say Manafort then used a text-message encryption application to contact the witness, writing “This is Paul” and “We should talk.” The witnesses preserved the texts and turned them over to the government.
In turn, Mueller’s team has moved to rescind Manafort’s conditional release. Manafort is currently out on house arrest and a $10 million unsecured bail and is awaiting a trial in Virginia scheduled for late July and a trial in D.C. scheduled to begin in September.
This is not the first time Manafort has defied court orders. While under a gag order, Manafort tried to “ghostwrite an opinion piece in Ukraine” last fall.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson announced on Tuesday that a hearing regarding the Manafort witness tampering allegations will take place next Friday, June 15th. Manafort has until this Friday, June 8th, to respond to the government's motion to revoke or revise his bail in court filings.