Paul Manafort, who headed Donald Trump's presidential campaign for several months in mid-2016, shared polling data from the campaign with an associate with ties to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing Tuesday.
The revelation is the latest evidence of communication among Russians and Trump campaign officials, though federal prosecutors have yet to make a case that there was any conspiracy involving the campaign.
Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation say Manafort lied to them about the exchange. Manafort, however, denied the charge about his dealings with former business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukraine native accused by prosecutors of having ties to Russian intelligence. Manafort said he merely forgot the details, blaming the chaotic atmosphere of the campaign.
Mueller's team is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election, and the new allegations against Manafort raise the possibility that information he provided helped Russia's efforts. The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Russia worked to undermine the election with a clear preference for Trump to win.
The prosecutors, who are also looking into whether Trump, as president, tried to illegally obstruct the probe, contended Manafort lied about at least five subjects, including his connection with Kilimnik.
Probe has lasted 20 months
The information seen Tuesday was in a redacted portion of the filing by Manafort's lawyers that wasn't properly blacked out, and showed that Manafort lied about sharing political polling data with Kilimnik while he was working on the Trump campaign. The specifics were not previously known, having been sufficiently blacked out in a heavily redacted Dec. 7 filing by the Mueller's team.
Kilimnik, who has been charged by Mueller with obstruction of justice for allegedly tampering with witnesses in the Manafort case, has denied ties with Russian intelligence.
Russia denies any role
Russia has denied interfering in the election, while Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia to help him win the election.
Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Reuters Wednesday that the president's legal team had informed Mueller that Trump would not answer any more questions regarding the probe. Trump, in November, provided written answers to Mueller's questions, but his lawyers say he will not do that again.
Manafort's lawyers also said in the filing that any "misstatements" Manafort made to prosecutors were "unintentional" and that he won't contest the prosecutors' claim that he lied.
Prosecutors had contended in November that Manafort had told "multiple discernible lies" during 12 interview sessions after he had agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
They contended the 69-year-old Manafort, facing years in prison, had breached the cooperation agreement that was reached when he pleaded guilty to cheating U.S. tax authorities, violating federal lobbying laws and obstructing justice in connection with his long-time lobbying efforts for deposed Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych in the years before he worked on Trump's campaign.
Move on to sentencing
In the court filing disclosed Tuesday, Manafort's lawyers decided not to contest the allegations that Manafort lied and asked a judge to move on to sentencing Manafort in the coming weeks. Manafort also was convicted last summer of financial crimes in a Virginia trial just outside Washington.
The lawyers said Manafort was suffering from gout, anxiety and depression and never purposely lied.
"The defense contests the government's conclusion [that Manafort lied] and contends that any alleged misstatements, to the extent they occurred at all, were not intentional," his lawyers said.
In addition to winning the case against Manafort, Mueller and other federal prosecutors have secured guilty pleas for various offenses from Trump's first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, former campaign aide Rick Gates, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, and Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, among others.