By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge in Virginia on Monday postponed the Feb. 8 sentencing for President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, after prosecutors for the special counsel’s office accused Manafort of breaching his plea agreement in a parallel case in Washington.
Judge T.S. Ellis in the Eastern District of Virginia said in a court order he wanted to delay the sentencing until the other judge ruled on whether Manafort had knowingly lied to investigators in breach of his plea deal, noting that such a decision “may have some effect on the sentencing decision in this case.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating U.S. allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and whether Trump campaign members coordinated with Moscow officials. The Kremlin denies election meddling and Trump denies any collusion with Russia.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last week ordered Manafort’s lawyers and lawyers from Mueller’s office to appear on Feb. 4 for a sealed hearing to hash out whether Manafort violated his plea deal.
Prosecutors said that Manafort, 69, lied on at least five different subjects ranging from his contacts with Trump administration officials in 2018 to his interactions with his former business partner in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, who Mueller’s office has said has ties to Russian intelligence.
But Manafort’s attorneys say any misstatements were merely due to memory lapses, and do not represent any intent to deceive investigators.
Manafort pleaded guilty in September 2018 in the Washington case to attempted witness tapering and conspiring against the United States, a charge that covers conduct including money laundering and unregistered lobbying.
He was also separately convicted by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia on eight counts of bank and tax fraud.
Jackson’s decision on whether Manafort breached the deal could have an impact on the length of his prison sentence.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Eric Beech and Grant McCool)