Trump’s lawyers were briefed on what Manafort told investigators, inflaming tensions with Mueller: NYT report

Paul Manafort

“A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel.”

There it is.

Attorneys for Donald Trump are said to have been briefed on what Paul Manafort told federal investigators, which further ratcheted up tensions with special counsel Robert Mueller, reports the New York Times this evening.

Michael Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere and Maggie Haberman report:

A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.

The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with Mr. Mueller’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against the special counsel’s office.

For example, Mr. Giuliani said, Mr. Manafort’s lawyer Kevin M. Downing told him that prosecutors hammered away at whether the president knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians promised to deliver damaging information on Hillary Clinton to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. The president has long denied knowing about the meeting in advance. “He wants Manafort to incriminate Trump,” Mr. Giuliani declared of Mr. Mueller.

While Mr. Downing’s discussions with the president’s team violated no laws, they helped contribute to a deteriorating relationship between lawyers for Mr. Manafort and Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors, who accused Mr. Manafort of holding out on them despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant, according to the people. That conflict spilled into public view on Monday when the prosecutors took the rare step of declaring that Mr. Manafort had breached his plea agreement by lying to them about a variety of subjects.

Mr. Manafort’s lawyers insisted that their client had been truthful but acknowledged that the two sides were at an impasse. Mr. Manafort will now face sentencing on two conspiracy charges and eight counts of financial fraud — crimes that could put him behind bars for at least 10 years.

No comment from Downing. Read the entire report here.