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Manafort’s Lawyers Make Epic Clerical Error

January 8, 2019
Manafort’s Lawyers Make Epic Clerical Error
Richard Westling, Kevin Downing, and Thomas Zehnle, attorneys for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, talk to reporters outside. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The legal team for President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, we regret to inform you, has committed an unfortunate clerical error. In a filing arguing that Manafort’s lies to the special counsel were not nearly so serious as prosecutors allege, the lawyers failed properly to redact some of the prosecution’s previously undisclosed charges against Manafort—most notably, that he had lied to Mueller about whether he had provided polling numbers to a business contact with Kremlin ties, Konstantin Kilimnik, during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Washington Post reports:

The information is in a filing that appears to inadvertently include details not intended to be made public and indicates a pathway by which the Russians could have had access to Trump campaign data.

The former Trump campaign chairman on Tuesday denied in a filing from his defense team that he broke his plea deal by lying repeatedly to prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about that and other issues.

In his rebuttal to the special counsel’s claims of dishonesty, Manafort exposed details of the dispute, much of which centers on his relationship with Kilimnik. The Russian citizen, who began working for Manafort’s consulting firm starting in 2005, has been charged with helping his former boss to obstruct Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 election. He is believed to be in Moscow.

The special counsel alleged Manafort “lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign,” according to the unredacted filing. The source of that data, including whether it came from the Trump campaign, is unclear.

Digital copies of the documents appeared properly redacted at first, but enterprising sleuths quickly discovered that text copied and pasted from the documents appeared unredacted. The judge quickly ordered the documents taken down and Manafort’s lawyers refiled them properly, but the damage was done.

Why the government’s accusations concerning Manafort and Kilimnik were still redacted is interesting to contemplate. Presumably, this signals that these interactions remain an ongoing matter of concern to special counsel Robert Mueller. Regardless, it’s not every day that new information germane to the Mueller investigation bubbles out due to sheer legal incompetence. With friends like these, what president needs enemies?

Andrew Egger

Andrew Egger was a senior writer at The Bulwark.