President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was recently accused of attempting to tamper with potential witnesses in his federal tax and money laundering case. In addition to facing previous federal charges, including money laundering, acting as unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government, and tax fraud, Manafort allegedly contacted at least two witnesses by phone, through an intermediary, and an encrypted messaging app.
In February, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert Mueller III, charged Manafort with several federal charges, including failing to file income tax returns, bank fraud, money laundering, acting as unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government, and tax fraud. Due to the fact that Manafort’s former business partner, Rick Gates, agreed to plea guilty and cooperate with the prosecution, Manafort is expected to eventually flip on Trump and offer information about possible Russian collusion during the 2016 election unless offered a presidential pardon.
While under house arrest on a $10 million bond, Manafort allegedly contacted a witness against him through a WhatsApp message on February 26. Referring to his work lobbying for the Ukrainian government, Manafort wrote, “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”
As the witnesses ignored Manafort’s messages and hung up on his phone calls, he reportedly utilized an unidentified intermediary to send messages to at least two witnesses. On February 28, the intermediary wrote in a WhatsApp message to one of the witnesses, “Basically P wants to give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the U.S., and the purpose of the program was E.U.”
In April, the intermediary wrote to another witness, “My friend P is looking for ways to connect to you to pass you several messages. Can we arrange that.”
According to Mueller’s recent allegation, Manafort attempted to tamper with two witnesses by coercing them into stating that his lobbying efforts for the Ukrainian government were only enacted in Europe, not the U.S. The identities of the witnesses have not been disclosed to the public.
According to court records, Manafort sent the illicit messages repeatedly between February and April of this year. The messages began shortly after Mueller’s office brought additional charges against Manafort and immediately after Gates plead guilty to many similar charges.
Although Manafort currently remains under house arrest pending his first trial scheduled to begin next month, prosecutors have argued that Manafort should be detained in jail due to the recent accusations of witness tampering. Despite the fact that Manafort has not been charged with any crimes relating to Russian collusion during the 2016 election, his position as campaign chairman and presence at a meeting involving Russians at Trump Tower during the campaign could be disastrous for the president if the Democrats regain Congress later this year.