Paul Manafort’s attorneys have been arguing in court that in prosecuting Manafort, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has exceeded his authority. The idea that Mueller was in the weeds is completely belied by the letter that Mueller’s team produced, showing the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had specifically authorized Mueller to investigate the areas for which Manfort is being prosecuted. But as Manafort’s legal team has continued in their attempts to find some way to invalidate the charges—other than demonstrating Manafort’s innocence, which seems patently impossible—it has spurred additional information from the DOJ on just why Mueller was looking at Manafort.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stemmed in part from his suspected role as a “back channel” between the campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge.
Previously, all the dots were in place. Manafort had connections to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. He had contact with Deripaska during the campaign, as well as contact with convicted attorney Alex van Der Zwaan, who is not only the son-in-law of a prominent Russian banker, but also a link to “Person A,” who has been identified as GRU agent Konstantin Kilimnik.
But in fighting against special counsel’s right to bring these indictments, rather than the indictments themselves, what Manafort’s team is forcing the DOJ to do, is to draw the lines between those dots. Robert Mueller was looking at Paul Manafort because he suspected that Manafort was one of, if not the primary, go between for conspiracy between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and officials of the Russian government.
Which means that Manafort’s charges are not just related to Mueller’s investigation. They’re the primary reason there was an investigation in the first place. What Paul Manafort did, is exactly what the FBI set out to find when they started looking at the Trump campaign.
Previously, the special counsel had clarified that Paul Manafort’s connections to Russia weren’t just historical, but active during the Trump campaign.
During Kilimnik’s time working for Manafort in Kiev, he had served as a liaison for Manafort to the Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, with whom Manafort had done business. Emails previously described to The Post show that Manafort asked Kilimnik during the campaign to offer Deripaska “private briefings” about Trump’s effort.
According to the filings, “Person A,” who is assumed to be Kilimnik, had multiple communications with Manafort and his partner Rick Gates during the campaign. These communications were not about events in Ukraine several years ago. They were about what Manafort was doing at the time. They were about the Trump campaign.
Manafort’s role in the campaign wasn’t as coffee boy, and he wasn’t a distant adviser that Trump can easily disown. Paul Manafort was Donald Trump’s campaign manager for a critical part of the campaign. He was actively exchanging information with Russian officials — at a time in the campaign where Russians both contacted Donald Trump Jr about sharing information, informed George Papadopoulos that they were in possession of Democratic emails, and set up Wikileaks to disseminate stolen information.
Manafort wasn’t just well-placed to act as a link between Trump and Russia, it’s clear that he was playing that role. What’s in question now is just how much information Manafort exchanged, and who else was involved.