Paul Manafort's Alleged Lies Since Guilty Plea Detailed By Justice Department Manafort's attorneys say he has provided the government with useful information but aren't opposing the recommendation that he be sentenced in early 2019.

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Feds Detail What They Call Lies Told By Paul Manafort Since His Guilty Plea

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It has been a busy day for the special counsel's Russia investigation. This evening, documents in the case of President Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen were filed in a New York federal court. The documents offer more information about the crimes the government says Cohen has committed. We also have new documents from the special counsel about the president's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is here in the studio to walk us through both these filings. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, let's start with Michael Cohen. A couple documents here from the government today describe in more detail about why Cohen is expecting to head to prison. Tell us what we're learning.

JOHNSON: There is a lot in these materials. First, federal prosecutors in Manhattan say Michael Cohen actually deserves a substantial prison sentence. They say that he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1, who happens to be the president...

CHANG: Right.

JOHNSON: ...In an ongoing campaign finance probe of payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Those are two women who allegedly had personal relationships with Donald Trump and receive payments in the course of the campaign. The prosecutors in New York also say Michael Cohen consulted with Donald Trump about meetings in Moscow, part of a highly lucrative Trump Tower Moscow deal that never came to fruition. Authorities also reveal that Cohen was approached as far back as 2015 by an unnamed Russian who was offering political synergy with Michael Cohen.

CHANG: Political synergy.

JOHNSON: Yeah.

CHANG: (Laughter).

JOHNSON: Now, we got a second document shortly thereafter from the special counsel. It is very intriguing. The special counsel says Cohen met with them seven times, that he provided useful information on Russia matters that are core to their investigation. He got that information apparently through regular contact with company executives at the Trump Organization during the campaign and that Michael Cohen also talked with the special counsel about his contacts with people tied to the White House in 2017 and 2018 and that when he got questions from Congress about Russia, he circulated his responses to a whole bunch of people before he sent them. He now says those responses were false, so the question is, who got them, and were they encouraging him to lie?

CHANG: Right. Now, the president has already responded in his favorite way, Twitter, of course. What has President Trump said about all of this?

JOHNSON: You know, President Trump has been out with a couple of lines on Twitter. He said, totally clears the president - thank you. The White House - Sarah Sanders, press secretary, followed up with more detail later. Sanders said the government's filings in Michael Cohen's case tell us nothing of value that wasn't already known. Michael Cohen has repeatedly lied, and as the prosecution has pointed out in court, Michael Cohen is no hero.

CHANG: OK, we also received another document today, this one about Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Tell us what's in there.

JOHNSON: Ailsa, this is the story of a relationship gone bad.

CHANG: (Laughter).

JOHNSON: Remember that Paul Manafort...

CHANG: Oh, yes.

JOHNSON: ...Agreed to plead guilty in September and cooperate with the special counsel.

CHANG: Yes.

JOHNSON: It turns out he met with prosecutors 12 times. He actually testified twice before the grand jury. But authorities now say Paul Manafort lied and lied and lied again. He lied about his business associate who allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence. He lied about a wire transfer. And they say he also lied about another unspecified Justice Department investigation that's ongoing. And maybe most important, Paul Manafort, they say, lied about his contacts with administration officials, that Paul Manafort himself was in touch with a senior administration official as late as February 2018 and that he authorized somebody else on his behalf to be in touch with other administration officials as of May 26, 2018. The question is, what were they talking about?

CHANG: Yeah.

JOHNSON: Remember.

CHANG: No details on the content of the communications.

JOHNSON: No details.

CHANG: OK.

JOHNSON: No details, a lot still under seal on - in this case. But remember; Paul Manafort had been maybe expecting a presidential pardon. The question now...

CHANG: Right.

JOHNSON: ...Is were they discussing that? President Trump recently told reporters a pardon was not off the table for Paul Manafort, so we're going to be looking for more information about that moving forward.

CHANG: OK, so, you know, give me the big picture here. Do we know where these investigations are headed next based on what's happened today?

JOHNSON: Well, this - the ball is in the court of a couple of judges. Michael Cohen is going to be sentenced in New York later this month. Authorities say he - he's still working with the special counsel. And Paul Manafort won't be punished, won't be sentenced until early 2019, but we may have a hearing coming up about how exactly he lied and may have violated the plea deal. It's important to note as a matter of fairness that Paul Manafort says he believes he told the truth, and he believes he cooperated. So we may have a public hearing in court about whether or not he did all these lies that the special counsel says.

CHANG: All right, lots more to come. That's NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thanks so much, Carrie.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

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