Paul Manafort Facing New Obstruction of Justice Charges

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 08, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted on two additional federal charges today: obstructing justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Those are in addition to five other charges on which Manafort was indicted in October of last year, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, being an unregistered agent of foreign principal, and false statements.

The most recent charges, filed by special counsel Robert Mueller's office, are based on allegations that Manafort and a longtime aide Konstantin Kilimnik (who is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence) attempted to tamper with witnesses in Mueller's investigation.

Prohibited Persuasion

The additional indictment accuses Manafort and Kilimnik of "knowingly and intentionally attempted to persuade" two unidentified persons with "intent to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding." According to Politico, prosecutors say those unidentified men reported receiving phone and encrypted messages from Manafort and Kilimnik, and perceived the messages as an attempt to persuade them to say that Manafort's Ukraine-related PR efforts (for which he was previously indicted) focused on Europe, not the U.S. Mueller's team said one of the targets felt the outreach was an attempt by Manafort to "suborn perjury."

Not Just Doing It, Doing It "Corruptly"

Clearly, witness tampering and intimidation is a crime. And federal obstruction of justice statutes prohibit any attempts to "influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress."

And when charging obstruction, it's not enough to prove that some did something -- like send encrypted messages. Federal prosecutors must also prove that something was done "corruptly" or with the specific intent to obstruct an investigation.

The new indictment could mean incarceration for Manafort. Even before the charges were added, Mueller had asked the judge in Manafort's case to revoke his $10 million bail and order jail time instead based on witness tampering allegations.

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