WASHINGTON -- U.S. prosecutors have laid out in court details of what they say are lies by former top associates of President Donald Trump regarding their interactions with Russian contacts, charges that will likely lead to long prison terms for the two men.
The accusations against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former personal lawyer Michael Cohen were made in separate filings late on December 7 in federal court.
Despite the allegations against former top associates of Trump, the White House late on December 7 issued a statement saying the filings offered nothing new or damaging about the president and blamed the media for "trying to create a story where there isn't one."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was collusion between associates of Trump and Russia. Moscow denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion between his team and Russia.
Mueller's office charged in U.S. District Court in Washington that Manafort made “multiple discernible lies" regarding his contacts with Russian-Ukrainian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik, violating the terms of a previous plea deal.
The filing states Manafort lied about Kilimnik's efforts to tamper with witnesses, the circumstances around a $125,000 payment to a firm working for Manafort, and Manafort's contacts with Trump administration officials.
Mueller’s office also said Manafort told investigators he spoke with officials only prior to and after they had left the Trump administration. But prosecutors allege that a review of Manafort’s electronic documents shows he had "additional contacts" with the officials.
Manafort's lawyers deny he lied, and it will be up to a judge to rule on whether he broke his plea deal.
The 69-year-old Manafort already faces years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy counts in the Washington court and being convicted of financial fraud crimes at a Virginia court, which is scheduled to sentence him in February.
He pleaded guilty in September in the Washington case and had agreed to cooperate with the investigation. He is being held in jail after his bail was revoked.
Manafort did political work for Moscow-friendly former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his party, and undisclosed lobbying work he admitted to performing on behalf of Ukraine in violation of U.S. law.
Manafort joined Trump's presidential campaign in March 2016 and became chairman but resigned five months later.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Manhattan asked a judge to sentence Cohen to a "substantial” prison term after he admitted to paying a porn film actress money to keep her from embarrassing Trump during the 2016 election.
Some of the money that was paid to the women allegedly came from shell corporations that Cohen set up, and with money allegedly that was provided by Trump.
Investigators have been looking at whether the money Trump allegedly paid could constitute a contribution to his election effort, and whether it should have been disclosed under federal election law.
Mueller asked a judge for no additional prison time for Cohen on a separate set of charges that said the lawyer lied about potential Moscow real estate development that could have brought Trump’s business “hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources.”
The filing detailed how Cohen spoke to a Russian as early as 2015 who "claimed to be a 'trusted person' in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign 'political synergy' and 'synergy on a government level,'" although the meeting never took place.
Cohen, who has been cooperating with Mueller, pleaded guilty to charges including tax, bank, and campaign finance fraud in August.
Cohen worked for years for Trump’s business organization, serving as a “fixer,” to help out with business deals and other matters.
Cohen is scheduled to be sentence on December 12 on all the federal charges he has pleaded guilty to.
The moves follow the release of a sentencing memo on December 4 by the special counsel's office regarding Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
In December 2017, 10 months after being fired by Trump, Flynn pleaded guilty to charges of lying to FBI investigations about secretive conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.
Mueller recommended no prison time for Flynn because of the assistance he has provided prosecutors, but he offered few details into the scope of that cooperation.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Mike Eckel, AP, Reuters, and AFP