Senior Justice Department prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann arranged a meeting with the Associated Press in April, 2016 to discuss circumstances surrounding Paul Manafort’s case before he was appointed to Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel. According to recent court filings submitted to the Eastern District of Virginia court, the meeting was held during the time a Grand Jury had convened in Manafort’s case.
Manafort’s lawyers are requesting a hearing based on Weissmann’s alleged improper disclosure of confidential grand jury information, non-public information, false information and potentially classified materials, the court documents state. Weissmann met with AP journalists on April 11 after reporters informed him of their own investigation into Manafort’s dealings with Ukrainian officials.
CourthouseNews.com points out that, according to Manafort’s attorney, Jay Nanavati, “the government turned over roughly 50,000 pages of new discovery materials to the defense on Friday, ‘a mere 19 days before the scheduled trial in this case.’”
The meeting raises serious concerns about whether a violation of grand jury secrecy occurred
According to sources with knowledge of the meeting, the reporters had reached out to Weissmann on a different story earlier in the year and it was during that conversation that the AP team told Weissmann of their investigation into Manafort. However, according to the recent documents, it was Weissmann that called for the meeting. On April 12–one day after the meeting–the AP published the explosive expose on Manafort.
“The meeting raises serious concerns about whether a violation of grand jury secrecy occurred,” stated Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lawyer, in a motion requesting a hearing. “Based on the FBI’s own notes of the meeting, it is beyond question that a hearing is warranted.”
SaraACarter.com first reported in January the meeting between Weissmann and the Associated Press. However, these current court documents, which include electronic communications and a complaint filed by the FBI against Weissmann, are the first indication that it was Weissmann who called for the meeting.
At the time of the meeting, Weissmann was head of the Justice Department’s fraud division. He was the most senior member of the Justice Department to join the special counsel in May 2016, one month after the meeting with reporters.
Weissmann, who is described by the New York Times as Mueller’s “pit bull” is known for using unscrupulous tactics and has been reprimanded by the courts on several occasions for withholding exculpatory evidence in cases.
According to the court documents released Friday, Weissmann directed the AP reporters to “ask the Cypriot Anti-Money Laundering Authority if they had provided the U.S. Department of Treasury with everything to which they had access or only provided what they were legally required to provide.”
Downing also noted in the court filing that the AP reporters “inquired about FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) violations” and DOJ attendees confirmed to the reporters that it was a prosecutable offense. More importantly, said Downing, the DOJ guided the reporters who wrote the original story on Manafort and noted that the reporters “appeared to have a good understanding of Manafort’s business dealings in Ukraine.
According to the court documents, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Karen Greenaway and Special Agent Jeffery Pfeiffer also attended the April 11 meeting. Greenaway’s notes were more detailed than Pfeiffer’s and revealed detailed information not yet disclosed.
Details revealed in the court documents:
- The meeting was arranged by Andrew Weissmann
- Andrew Weissmann directed the AP reporters to ask the Cypriot Anti-Money Laundering Authority (“MOKAS”) if they had provided the U.S. Department of Treasury with everything to which they had access or only provided what they were legally required to provide
- When the AP reporters inquired about FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) violations, DOJ attendees confirmed that they were prosecutable
- When the AP reporters asked if DOJ would tell them if they were off base or on the wrong track, government attendees confirmed that the AP reporters appeared to have a good understanding of Manafort’s business dealings in Ukraine
In January, AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said, “Associated Press journalists meet with a range of people in the course of reporting stories, and we refrain from discussing relationships with sources. However, the suggestion that AP would voluntarily serve as the source of information for a government agency is categorically untrue.”
That meeting with the AP was attended by three different litigating offices. Two employees from the U.S. Justice Department and the other representative was from the U.S. Attorney’s office, according to the sources. FBI agents also attended the meeting, as reported in January.
On June 15, a federal judge ordered Manafort to prison for alleged witness tampering while he was out on bail. He is currently at Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, VA, where he has since been in solitary confinement for 23 hours every day. According to his attorneys, the jail determined that if Manafort was to be detained, solitary confinement was the only way to “ensure his security.”