The Russian Connection: They Shalt Not Witness Tamper

Late Monday night Special Counsel Robert Mueller requested a hearing to determine whether the indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort tried ‘to secure materially false testimony.’ On other words, Manaford contacted witnesses to get them to coordinate their testimony that would align with his defense. That’s called witness tampering.

In an 18-page motion filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, Mueller’s prosecutors called for an immediate hearing to determine whether Manafort and another, unidentified person repeatedly contacted two other unnamed people by phone and encrypted text messages “in an effort to secure materially false testimony” concerning the activities at the center of February’s superseding indictment.

Backed by an affidavit from FBI special agent Brock Domin who has been working on the Manafort case, Mueller’s office said Manafort and one of his longtime associates — described as “Person A” — tried in the wake of the Trump official’s indictment to contact other members of the so-called Hapsburg Group, a collection of former senior European politicians who were working with Manafort and covertly promoting Ukrainian interests in Washington.

After the superseding indictment’s public disclosure on Feb. 23, one of the people whom Manafort tried to call “sought to avoid Manafort” and “ended the call,” according to the affidavit. Manafort tried again with an encrypted text message, stating, “This is paul.” Two days later came another text with a news article describing the allegations and another message: “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”

Besides phone calls, Manafort thought he could get away with sending encrypted messages. He has now learned that encrypting messages doesn’t matter if the FBI has a warrant to search your iCloud account:

The new court filing, made public just last night, outlines the communications that Manafort had with multiple unnamed sources. And while some of the sources willingly handed over WhatsApp and Telegram messages to special prosecutor Robert Mueller, it’s clear that the feds also have a court order to search through Manafort’s iCloud account.

A screenshot from the court filing is below, with highlighting by Gizmodo:


WhatsApp allows both manual and automatic scheduled backups to iCloud, though it’s not clear what settings Manafort may have had on his device. As WhatsApp notes on its website, “Media and messages you back up aren’t protected by WhatsApp end-to-end encryption while in iCloud.

Manafort’s messages include code names for people and they allegedly show an attempt to get everyone on the same page about their testimony. One of the people that Manafort communicated with alleges that Manfort was trying to “suborn perjury” by saying that the Hapsburg group only did lobbying work in Europe and not the United States.

“We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe,” one of Manafort’s messages reads.

Manafort was supposed to be the smart one during the campaign, always cool and collected. He should have known that once you’re being investigated for doing crimes, don’t think that an encrypted messaging app will keep your messages hidden from the cops, especially if you’re backing everything up to iCloud. One other thing, even if you keep your messages out of the iCloud, the person you’re sending messages to could turn them over the the police. He obviously didn’t read WhatsApp’s warning, not so smart after all.

Discussing this new twist with MSNBC host Ali Velshi, Former Deputy Atty Gen Harry Litman and former Asst. US Attorney Mimi Rocah say this is very bad news for Manafort.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson gave Manafort until Friday June 8 to respond to the claims and set a hearing on the matter for June 15. Please stand by.