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Judge Rules Paul Manafort Lied To Special Counsel's Team


Some other news now. Paul Manafort may spend the rest of his life in prison. His plea deal is off after a judge ruled that President Trump's former campaign chairman intentionally lied to investigators. He had been asked for information about Russia's participation in the U.S. election.

NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is here. Carrie, good morning.


INSKEEP: What were Manafort's lies?

JOHNSON: About three things, but the most interesting for our purposes, Steve, are lies - or alleged lies about his interactions with a business associate that the FBI has linked to Russian intelligence. This man, Konstantin Kilimnik, and Paul Manafort had conversations before the 2016 election, throughout the campaign and after the election, having meetings and conversations up until 2018, after Manafort had already been charged with financial crimes.

The authorities say Manafort lied about his discussions with Kilimnik regarding a peace plan for Ukraine, which was a major foreign policy goal in Russia, and also about the sharing of some kind of polling data with Kilimnik during the campaign.

INSKEEP: So if these were lies, that means Manafort really did meet this person and pass on polling information. And it sounds like Robert Mueller, the head of the special counsel investigation, has the evidence to prove it.

JOHNSON: Mueller has the evidence to prove it. He hasn't shown his hand to members of the public yet. So we don't know what exactly this polling data is or how it was used or, Steve, importantly, whether anybody else involved in the Trump campaign knew about this at the time or after.

INSKEEP: But, as I think you have noted, Mueller does have testimony from a business associate of Paul Manafort.

JOHNSON: That's right. In part, prosecutors were able to meet their burden of proof that Manafort lied by contrasting his testimony with that of Richard Gates. Rick Gates was Manafort's right-hand man for years. Rick Gates has been cooperating fully with authorities. He has not yet been sentenced. His cooperation has been so helpful, Steve, that he's basically able to travel and live his life while, for months and months now, Paul Manafort has been locked in solitary confinement in a detention center in Alexandria, Va.

INSKEEP: And I guess that may not change very much. So Manafort makes these false statements. He says, if I made any false statements, I didn't mean to. The judge says, no, I agree with the prosecutors. You intentionally lied. What does that mean for his sentencing coming up in a few weeks?

JOHNSON: Yeah. Manafort's going to be sentenced March 13. His lawyers have said Manafort is ill with severe gout and depression and anxiety, he didn't mean to lie. The judge is going to take all of that into account when she figures out a punishment for this 69-year-old man.

INSKEEP: We began by saying he might spend the rest of his life in prison. Does it seem that the range of possible sentences would put him in prison the rest of his life?

JOHNSON: Well, certainly, he has a number of years on the table in D.C. Remember, Steve, he also was convicted by a jury of separate crimes in Virginia. He needs to be punished there, too.

INSKEEP: OK. Carrie, thanks for the update. Really appreciate it.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.