Mueller: Manafort continued to lie, violated plea deal

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The special counsel in the Russia investigation is accusing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of violating his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to federal investigators, an extraordinary allegation that could expose him to a lengthier prison sentence — and potentially more criminal charges.

The torpedoing of Manafort’s plea deal, disclosed in a court filing Monday, also results in special counsel Robert Mueller’s team losing a cooperating witness from the top of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who was present for several key episodes under investigation. That includes a Trump Tower meeting involving Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer he was told had derogatory information on Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The move signals a return to the acrimonious relationship Manafort has had with the special counsel’s office since his indictment last year. Before his plea agreement, Manafort aggressively challenged the special counsel’s legitimacy in court, went through a bitter trial and landed himself in jail after prosecutors discovered he had attempted to tamper with witnesses in his case.

In the latest filing, Mueller’s team said Manafort “committed federal crimes” by lying about “a variety of subject matters” even after he agreed to truthfully cooperate with the investigation. Prosecutors said they will detail the “nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies” in writing at a later date to the judge.

Through his attorneys, Manafort denied lying, saying he “believes he provided truthful information” during a series of sessions with Mueller’s investigators. He also disagreed that he breached his plea agreement. Still, both sides now agree they can’t resolve the conflict, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson should set a date to sentence him.

Manafort, who remains jailed, had been meeting with the special counsel’s office since he pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He cut that deal to head off a second trial after being convicted last summer of eight felony counts related to millions of dollars he hid from the IRS in offshore accounts.

Both cases stemmed from his Ukrainian political work and undisclosed lobbying work he admitted to carrying out in the U.S. in violation of federal law.

As part of his plea agreement, Manafort pledged to “cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly” with the government “in any and all matters” prosecutors deemed necessary. That included his work on the Trump campaign as well as his Ukrainian political work, which remains under investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Prosecutors there are looking into the conduct of longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig and former Republican congressman and lobbyist Vin Weber to determine whether they violated federal law by failing to register as foreign agents with the Justice Department. None of the men has been charged with any crimes.

As part of his plea deal, Manafort also forfeited many of his rights as well as his ability to withdraw the plea if he broke any of the terms. In return, prosecutors agreed to not bring additional charges against him and to ask a judge for a reduction of his sentence if he provided “substantial assistance.”

But with prosecutors saying he breached the agreement, Manafort now faces serious repercussions such as the possibility of prosecution on additional charges including the 10 felony counts prosecutors dropped when he made the deal.

Manafort already faces up to five years in prison on the two charges in his plea agreement. In his separate Virginia case, Manafort’s potential sentencing under federal guidelines has not yet been calculated, but prosecutors have previously said he could face as much as 10 years in prison on those charges.

He is scheduled to be sentenced in that case in February. His co-defendant Rick Gates, who spent a longer time on the campaign and worked on the Trump inaugural committee, has not had a sentencing date set yet. He continues to cooperate with Mueller.

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Follow Chad Day on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChadSDay

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Read the court filing: http://apne.ws/YN2AwkK

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Former Trump aide ordered to prison

George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who triggered the Russia investigation, arrives for his first appearance before congressional investigators, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A federal judge ordered former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to report to prison as scheduled, rejecting his last-minute bid to delay his two-week sentence.

Papadopoulos is to begin serving his sentence Monday.

He was sentenced in September for lying to the FBI in the Russia investigation. He had sought a postponement of his prison term until an appeals court had ruled in a separate case challenging the constitutionality of special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.

But in a 13-page opinion Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss said Papadopoulos had waited too long to contest his sentence. Moss noted that Papadopoulos had agreed not to appeal in most circumstances as part of his plea agreement and the judge said the challenge to Mueller’s appointment was unlikely to be successful in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Four different federal judges have upheld Mueller’s appointment as proper.

“The prospect that the D.C. Circuit will reach a contrary conclusion is remote,” Moss wrote.

Papadopoulos had filed an initial motion on Nov. 16, nearly two months after the deadline for appealing his conviction or sentence. He followed up with a request to delay his sentence pending that motion on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

“Papadopoulos waited until the eleventh hour to seek relief; indeed, he did not file his second motion — the stay request — until the last business day before he was scheduled to surrender to serve his sentence,” Moss’ order states. “He has only his own delay to blame.

Responding to the judge’s order, Papadopoulos wrote in a tweet Sunday that he looked forward to telling the full story behind his case. In recent months, he has spent many nights posting on Twitter, as has his wife, venting anger about the FBI and insisting he was framed by the government. He has also offered to testify before the Senate’s intelligence committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, if he’s granted immunity or other conditions.

“The truth will all be out. Not even a prison sentence can stop that momentum,” Papadopoulos tweeted. “Looking forward to testifying publicly shortly after. The wool isn’t going to be pulled over America’s eyes forever.”

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to federal agents about his interactions with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential campaign. He also forfeited most of his rights to contest his conviction.

His lawyer argued that the appellate case could constitute new evidence that could allow him to mount a challenge. That case was brought by a witness refusing to comply with a Mueller grand jury subpoena.

Papadopoulos’ sentence, issued by Moss on Sept. 7, was far less than the maximum six-month sentence sought by the government but more than the probation that Papadopoulos and his lawyers had asked for. Moss at the time noted that many similar cases resulted in probation but said he imposed a sentence of incarceration partly to send a message to the public that people can’t lie to the FBI.

Papadopoulos, the first campaign aide sentenced in Mueller’s investigation, triggered the initial Russia investigation two years ago. Memos written by House Republicans and Democrats and now declassified show that information about Papadopoulos’ contacts with Russian intermediaries set in motion the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. That probe was later taken over by Mueller.

The White House has said that Papadopoulos was a low-level volunteer on the campaign.

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Execution drug use varies in states

Arm restraint on the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Arm restraint on the gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Problematic executions in Oklahoma, Arizona and other states have highlighted a patchwork approach states are taking with lethal drugs, with types, combinations and dosages varying widely. Arizona announced Monday that it was switching from the two-drug method that led to a nearly two-hour execution earlier this year, while a federal judge in Oklahoma upheld the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol, which was adjusted recently after a botched execution in the spring. A question-and-answer look at how the disparities in drugs came about and why, after more than three decades in which all death penalty states used the exact same mixture:

Q: What are states currently using for lethal drugs?

A: Georgia, Texas and Missouri use single doses of compounded pentobarbital, an anesthetic similar to the drug used to put pets to sleep. Ohio, which has been unable to obtain compounded pentobarbital, uses a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. Arizona said Monday it was switching from that same two-drug combination to a three-drug combination that includes midazolam. Florida uses midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Oklahoma has authorized four different lethal injection protocols: a single, lethal dose of either pentobarbital or sodium pentothal, a two-drug procedure using midazolam and hydromorphone, or the same three-drug method used in Florida.

Q: All death penalty states used the same three-drug combo for lethal injection for more than three decades. Why isn’t that done now?

A: Two reasons. First, supplies of the drugs started to run short as death penalty opponents in Europe put pressure on their drugmakers — which manufactured key anesthetics — to prohibit their use in executions. Secondly, states eager to avoid ongoing lawsuits alleging the old three-drug method caused inmates to suffer unconstitutional levels of pain looked for alternatives beginning about five years ago.

Q: Why don’t all states follow the lead of Georgia, Missouri and Texas and use compounded pentobarbital?

A: The compounded version is difficult to come by, with most compounding pharmacists reluctant to expose themselves to possible harassment by death penalty opponents. Adopting it also raises the specter of lawsuits over its constitutionality, based on arguments that its purity and potency could be questioned as a non-FDA regulated drug. So far, Georgia, Missouri and Texas won’t reveal their sources, while Ohio, whose protocol includes the option of compounded pentobarbital, hasn’t been able to obtain it.

Q: Why can’t states just find another drug as effective as pentobarbital?

A: Basically, options are running out. The leading candidate after pentobarbital was propofol, the painkiller known as the drug that caused pop singer Michael Jackson’s 2009 overdose death. Missouri proposed using propofol but withdrew the idea over concerns the move would create a shortage of the popular anesthetic. Meanwhile, manufacturers are also starting to put limits on drugs in the old three-drug combo still in use in states like Florida.

Q: With all this uncertainty, why don’t states return to the electric chair or other non-drug methods?

A: Most states retired their electric chairs or used them sparingly with the advent of the three-drug method introduced in the 1970s. Tennessee recently enacted a law allowing its use if lethal drugs can’t be found, and other states are debating its reintroduction. But electric chairs come with their own constitutional problems, since they have produced a number of botched executions over the years, as did hanging decades ago. Lawmakers in Oklahoma also are considering the use of nitrogen gas to execute inmates. Many death penalty experts, and even some opponents, believe the quickest and most humane method is the firing squad. But it’s unclear whether there’s a public appetite for moving to that method.