Special counsel Robert Mueller filed a new indictment Friday that added more charges against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, and brought the first charges against a longtime associate of Manafort’s with ties to Russian intelligence: Konstantin Kilimnik.
The new indictment, filed in Washington, DC court, includes five earlier charges against Manafort, but adds two new counts of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice against both Manafort and Kilimnik. These are the first new charges filed in Mueller’s probe since late February.
These new charges are about alleged witness tampering that Mueller alluded to in a court filing earlier this week. Mueller claims that after Manafort was indicted this February, he and Kilimnik “repeatedly contacted” two people they’d worked with in the past “in an effort to secure materially false testimony” in the case.
The special counsel says he’s obtained encrypted messaging, call records, and witness testimony to back him up. Already this week, he’s argued that Manafort’s pending release on bail should be blocked. But now, he’s officially filed new charges on the matter. You can read the new filing here.
Mueller says Manafort and Kilimnik tried to tamper with witnesses
The underlying matter is not Russian collusion or interference with the campaign — Manafort has not faced any charges about that — but Manafort’s work for the pro-Russian Ukrainian government several years back.
Over the past year, Mueller charged Manafort with five counts in Washington, DC, and 18 in Virginia related to this lobbying work. The charges include, among other things, conspiracy to defraud the United States, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, filing false income tax returns, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign financial accounts. Manafort has pleaded not guilty on all of them.
Mueller’s team claimed in their February indictment that, as part of the Ukraine lobbying, Manafort paid a group of former senior European politicians that he called the “Hapsburg group” to advocate for Ukraine’s interests in the United States.
Manafort seemed to believe his strongest defense would be to claim that he did pay these politicians to advocate for Ukraine’s interests — but only in the European Union, not the United States. And he wanted to make sure that two unnamed people from a PR firm with whom he’d worked on the project would stick to that story.
So, per Mueller, within days Manafort tried to reach out to one principal in that PR firm — someone referred to as “Person D1” in the indictment. Mueller alleges that:
- On February 24, Manafort called Person D1, but he quickly ended the call.
- That same day, Manafort used an encrypted messaging app to text the person “This is paul.”
- On February 25 and 27, Manafort tried to call Person D1.
- On February 26, Manafort sent Person D1 an encrypted message with a news article about the Hapsburg group allegations, and then wrote: “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”
But Person D1 talked to the FBI instead. He said that, contra Manafort’s claims, he knew the Habsburg group worked in the United States too. And, Mueller alleges, Person D1 thought Manafort was trying to suborn perjury.
Another set of surreptitious communications came from a longtime associate of Manafort’s whom the special counsel had previously called “Person A.” We now know that person is Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate of Manafort’s who’s been called his protégé.
Mueller claims that, in February and April of this year, Kilimnik repeatedly tried to contact the two PR firm principals, on behalf of someone he called “my friend P.” This person also tried to emphasize Manafort’s message that the Hapsburg group “never lobbied in the US.”
The second PR firm principal, “Person D2,” also told the FBI that he knew this wasn’t true, and that the Hapbsurg group did in fact lobby in the US.
Now, because of these contacts and this testimony, Mueller has charged Manafort and Kilimnik with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Who is Konstantin Kilimnik?
When Paul Manafort began to focus his lobbying business in Ukraine and Eastern Europe in the mid-2000s, he needed a right-hand man who could speak the language. For many years, the Soviet-born Konstantin Kilimnik played that role for him. (Manafort called him “my Russian brain,” according to a recent profile by Franklin Foer in the Atlantic.)
So Kilimnik was very involved in Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying work — the work that has been the basis for Mueller’s charges against Manafort so far.
There’s something else about Kilimnik that’s important to know: He’s been repeatedly linked to Russian intelligence services. Mueller’s team claimed in a court filing this year that, per the FBI, Kilimnik still has “ties to a Russian intelligence service.” Additionally, Rick Gates (Manafort’s former business partner) has told others that Kilimnik is a former officer of Russia’s foreign military intelligence agency, the GRU.
While Manafort and Gates worked for Trump during the 2016, they were in contact with Kilimnik.
- Shortly after Manafort joined Trump’s campaign, he emailed Kilimnik some positive articles about his new gig and asked, “How do we use to get whole?” (This likely referred to a debt Manafort owed to a Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.)
- In the summer of 2016, Kilimnik emailed Manafort with what seems to be vague, coded language about Deripaska. Kilimnik said he had “several important messages” from Deripaska, and that he had a “long caviar story” to tell (“caviar” is thought to be code for money). Then, on August 2, 2016, Kilimnik and Manafort met in New York City.
- Manafort was fired from the Trump campaign in mid-August, but Gates remained on Trump’s team through his victory — while Gates was still in contact with Kilimnik, discussing a Ukrainian investigation into their past work.
The exact nature of Kilimnik’s ties to Russian intelligence, and what he may have been doing for the Russian government, versus what he was doing on his own, remain hazy.
You can read the new indictment against Manafort and Kilimnik below, or at this link: