US judge rules ex-Trump campaign chief breached plea deal

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort arrives for arraignment on a third superseding indictment against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of witness tampering, at US District Court in Washington, on June 15, 2018. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Updated 14 February 2019

US judge rules ex-Trump campaign chief breached plea deal

  • US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson found there was a “preponderance” of evidence that Manafort lied on three different topics
  • Manafort’s lawyers repeated their argument that their client never intentionally lied to prosecutors

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office by lying to prosecutors, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling concludes weeks of wrangling between Manafort’s lawyers and the special counsel over whether he had intentionally lied to prosecutors, impeding their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the Manafort case in a Washington court, found there was a “preponderance” of evidence that Manafort lied on three different topics, including his communications with his former business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, but she cleared Manafort of allegations that he intentionally lied on two other subjects.
The ruling follows last week’s release of a court transcript that showed Mueller’s team believed Manafort’s alleged lies were central to their investigation into potential collusion, which Trump and Russia have both denied.
The investigation appears focused on a meeting held at the height of the election campaign between Manafort and Kilimnik, whom prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence, according to the court filing.
Mueller contends that Manafort lied about the number of times he and Kilimnik discussed a “Ukrainian peace plan” — a reference to a proposal that would result in the US lifting sanctions on Russia, one of the Kremlin’s top objectives.
In a court filing ahead of Wednesday’s ruling, Manafort’s lawyers repeated their argument that their client never intentionally lied to prosecutors and stressed that he corrected any mistakes once they were pointed out to him.


WHO warns ‘too early to ease up’ from COVID-19 lockdowns in Europe

Updated 18 min 8 sec ago

WHO warns ‘too early to ease up’ from COVID-19 lockdowns in Europe

  • ‘We need to be patient, it will take time to vaccinate’
  • ‘Pushing transmission down requires a sustained, consistent effort’

GENEVA: The World Health Organization’s European director Hans Kluge said on Thursday COVID-19 transmission rates in Europe remained too high, putting health services under severe strain, and therefore it was “too early to ease up.”
“We need to be patient, it will take time to vaccinate,” he told an online briefing. “We have learned harsh lessons — opening and closing, and reopening (societies) rapidly is a poor strategy” in seeking to curb coronavirus contagion, he said.
“Transmission rates across Europe are still very high, impacting health systems and straining services, making it too early to ease up,” Kluge said. “Pushing transmission down requires a sustained, consistent effort. Bear in mind that just over 3 percent of people in the region have had a confirmed COVID-19 infection. Areas hit badly once can be hit again.”
Kluge said a total of 35 countries in Europe had launched vaccination programs with 25 million does administered so far.
“These vaccines have shown the efficacy and safety we all hoped they would...This monumental undertaking will release pressure on our health systems and undoubtedly save lives.”
He said continued high rates of transmission and emerging variants of the virus made it urgent to vaccinate priority groups, but said the rate of vaccine production and distribution was not yet meeting expectations.
“This paradox, where communities sense an end is in sight with the vaccine but, at the same time, are called to adhere to restrictive measures in the face of a new threat, is causing tension, angst, fatigue, and confusion. This is completely understandable in these circumstances.”