In a response to the accusations made earlier in the week, Manafort's attorneys argued in a filing late Friday night that the special counsel allegations of witness tampering "conjures a sinister plot" to persuade associates to perjure themselves, but disputes that the evidence provided establishes any tampering. In addition, the filing says, Manafort's right to a fair trial by impartial jury "may have been irreparably damaged by the Special Counsel's latest, very public and very specious, filing of this motion".
It also adds a charge for conspiracy to obstruct justice, meaning Manafort and Kilimnik allegedly did it together.
The special counsel's team alleged one witness told investigators that Manafort wanted them to commit perjury about a lobbying effort they worked on for him in the United States.
Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik were slammed with one count each of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice for "knowingly and intentionally" trying to secure false testimony from two potential witnesses in the investigation into Russian election meddling, according to Mueller's federal Washington court filing. Manafort's lawyers had been given a deadline of Friday to respond to those charges.
Manafort messaged and called one of the witnesses shortly after he and business partner Rick Gates were indicted past year on a slew of charges related to their Ukrainian political activities, according to court papers. He also has denied being connected to Russian intelligence agencies.
Manafort is awaiting trial in federal court in Washington and Alexandria, Virginia. The indictment marked the first charges for Manafort's associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is believed to be in Moscow and probably safe from arrest because Russian Federation does not extradite its citizens.
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Manafort worked with a lobbying firm that enlisted former European politicians, the so-called Hapsburg group, who wrote articles and addressed USA politicians. Kilimnik, who prosecutors say lives in Moscow, was not in USA custody Friday.
A special counsel is prosecuting Manafort for his work with the Ukrainian government, and a judge issued a gag order on the case.
Mueller said in a statement earlier this week the two men had tried to influence witnesses' accounts of Manafort's attempts to lobby on behalf of pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to a raft of charges, from money-laundering, to failing to register as a foreign agent, to bank and tax fraud. "Closer scrutiny of this "evidence" reveals that the Special Counsel's allegations are without merit because Mr. Manafort's limited communications can not be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness".
Kilimnik worked for Manafort's longtime business partner, Rick Gates, when they served as political consultants in Ukraine.
Manafort's latest round of troubles started early this week, when Mueller's team asked a judge to review his house arrest and to consider jailing him over an alleged attempt to influence witnesses.
He has said he met with Kilimnik in person in May 2016 and again in August 2016 in New York City, about two weeks before Manafort resigned as Trump's campaign chairman. Kilimnik later took on more responsibilities, serving as Manafort's liaison to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who paid Manafort to advise him on investments.