Wednesday , June 13, 2018 - 10:00 PM
(c) 2018, The Washington Post.
WASHINGTON - Court officials inadvertently released a court filing Wednesday that identified two European public relations executives allegedly approached to solicit false testimony to aid Paul Manafort and also revealed names of several senior former European politicians one executive suggested approaching about a secret lobbying campaign for Ukraine.
The filing in Washington by prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller III, was a clerical error, a court spokeswoman said. The filing was withdrawn within minutes by court officials and reposted with redactions, in keeping with a judge’s order from earlier in the day.
The filing identified the PR executives as former journalists Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager of FBC Media, or Factbased Communications Media, a London-based firm that has since gone into bankruptcy.
Friedman and Sager did not respond to requests for comment earlier this week when their firm was linked to Manafort in news accounts, and did not respond to emails seeking comment Wednesday afternoon after the release.
Also included in the filing was a June 2012 memo from Friedman addressed to Manafort that named politicians Friedman sought to enlist as part of a “small chorus of high-level third-party endorsers and politically credible friends,” to help lobby for Ukraine.
It is not clear whether the European politicians mentioned were ever approached and if they were, if they acted as lobbyists and were paid to do so. The list included politicians from Austria, Italy, Belgium, Germany and Spain.
The names released Wednesday had been withheld in a June 7 indictment charging Manafort and a Russian associate with two counts of obstructing justice for their alleged attempts to have witnesses give misleading testimony about the foreign lobbying.
Among the charges filed against Manafort in the Mueller probe is an accusation Manafort failed to register with the U.S. as a lobbyist for a foreign government. The overtures to the potential witnesses in the case allegedly involved attempts to have them say the lobbying effort was only in Europe, court filings show.
Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and faces federal trials in Alexandria in July and in Washington in September.
The former campaign manager for President Donald Trump is accused of laundering more than $30 million over a decade of undisclosed lobbying for Ukraine, as well as tax and bank fraud charges. He faces an arraignment Friday in Washington on the counts of obstructing justice and also a hearing on whether his home detention should be revoked pending trials due to the witness tampering counts.
Prosecutors have alleged that Manafort funneled more than 2 million euros through four accounts in 2012 and 2013 to pay a group of politicians, called the “Hapsburg group.” The group included a former European Chancellor and prime minister that in redacted filings is referred to as “Foreign Politician A,” who with others lobbied members of Congress, the executive branch and their staffs, prosecutors assert.
The obstruction of justice charges revolve around allegations that Manafort and his longtime manager in Kiev, Konstantin Kilimnik, 47, tried to influence two public-relations executives who were involved in lobbying work in 2012 on behalf of pro-Russian Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions.
According to court filings, after Manafort was accused in February of secretly lobbying without registering as a lobbyist, he and Kilimnik repeatedly contacted the two executives to emphasize that their past work together did not involve American officials and therefore did not constitute lobbying in the United States.
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