Investigators bat in a two-run double
The dozens of people investigating illicit connections between the United States and Russia scored twice early in the week. Here are the revelatory stories:
1. Some of Paul Manafort’s attorneys inadvertently divulged, on Tuesday, that the former Trump campaign chairman gave 2016 presidential polling data to a Kiev associate that American officials have linked to Russian intelligence and may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan with him.
The attorneys let the disclosures be made public on Tuesday when they disputed special counsel Robert Mueller’s allegation that their client lied to investigators about his contacts with the Kiev associate, Konstantin Kilimnik.
Other matters were disclosed when they reached a plea agreement last year.
The defendant’s legal team played down the significance of Manafort’s alleged misstatements, saying they were the result of a faulty memory, failing health and his inability to review relevant documents before meeting with prosecutors.
In the filing, Manafort’s legal team said their client gave the government access to his electronic devices, email accounts and passwords, met with investigators a dozen times, testified twice before a grand jury and tried to provide accurate information “to the best of his ability.
Mueller accused Manafort late last year of telling “multiple discernible lies” about his contacts with the Trump administration and Kilimnik as well as about other matters in the weeks after he agreed to plead guilty to multiple crimes and cooperate in Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any links to the Trump campaign.
2. The Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in 2016 has been charged with obstruction of justice, stemming from her role in a federal money-laundering case, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.
Natalya Veselnitskaya allegedly attempted to thwart an investigation into a tax-fraud scheme involving Russian officials, an influential Russian businessman and an investment firm, Manhattan federal prosecutors said.
The indictment unsealed Tuesday is unrelated to the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, but suggests Veselnitskaya had close ties to senior Russian government officials and at times sought to advance Russia’s interests in her dealings with United States officials.
Prosecutors say her efforts included working secretly with a Russian prosecutor to draft a response by the Russian government to U.S. investigators.
In 2013, federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed a complaint seeking to recover millions of dollars in property, including New York real estate, alleging the property had been used to launder the proceeds of an elaborate Russian tax-fraud scheme involving corrupt Russian officials and a holding company, Prevezon Holdings.
Veselnitskaya participated in a well-publicized June 2016 meeting with top Trump advisers, including Donald Trump Jr., that had come under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Many of the commentators who are watching the Mueller investigation closely believe these two stories will notably strengthen the special counsel’s complicated case.