Donald Trump’s former election campaign manager Paul Manafort, who months ago struck a plea deal in return for co-operation in the probe over possible collusion with Russia, has since lied to the FBI and is facing imminent sentencing and years in prison.
Mr Manafort was in August convicted by a Virginia court of five counts of tax fraud, two of bank fraud and one of failing to disclose a foreign bank account. He is in custody but now stands accused of violating the agreement he struck with federal investigators to limit his jail time.
As such he could lose any protection he had secured through offering to answer questions posed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team.
The 69-year-old’s initial conviction stemmed from his work as a political consultant in Ukraine. Faced with a second trial in the US capital over conspiracy and witness-tampering claims, Manafort admitted in September to committing two offences. He offered to answer “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” any questions “and all matters” of interest to the US government.
However, a court filing late on Monday said he had not kept his side of the plea bargain, one day before the second trial was due to start.
“After signing the plea agreement, Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel’s office on a variety of subsequent matters, which constitute breaches of the agreement,” said the three-page filing submitted on the authority of Mr Mueller.
“As the defendant has breached the plea agreement, there is no reason to delay sentencing.”
Lawyers for Mr Manafort deny that he broke the deal. “Manafort has provided information to the government in an effort to live up to this co-operation obligations. He believes he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government’s characterisation or that he breached the agreement,” the same court filing said.
Mr Manafort is a key character in Mr Mueller’s probe of the US president, which has dogged Mr Trump’s time in the White House.
On Friday, the president said he had answered written questions from Mr Mueller – whose inquiry he has repeatedly called a “witch hunt” – but had not yet submitted them.
The special counsel’s ongoing probe concerns possible interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between Russia and Mr Trump’s campaign.
“You have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions,” said Mr Trump of the probe. “But no, the questions were very routinely answered by me.”
The president did not say when he would turn over the answers to Mr Mueller and he maintains that there was no collusion, describing the investigation as a waste of millions of dollars.