Former independent counsel Ken Starr thinks Paul Manafort is about to enter a new world of hurt after it was recently revealed that the former Trump 2016 campaign chair’s lawyers had been feeding information about Robert Mueller‘s special counsel investigation to Trump’s legal team under the auspices of their joint defense agreement, while Manafort simultaneously violated the terms of his now inoperative plea agreement with Mueller.
Appearing on CNN Wednesday, Starr discussed the issue at length with host John Berman.
“Paul Manafort, who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the investigation, we know now the special counsel claim that Manafort was lying when he was talking to them after his plea–and that that agreement is no longer valid they say–but we also learned from our reporting that Manafort’s legal team has been talking to the president’s legal team, sharing information,” Berman said. “How unusual is that? After a guilty plea and a cooperation agreement, to have lawyers talking like that?”
To which Starr replied:
Ordinarily, it’s not a problem at all or an issue at all. It depends on what was in the plea agreement. But you would think that you’re to cut off your communications with anyone else. You at this stage belong to the prosecutors. You’re now inside the tent, you’re part of the team. So to be leaking information to lawyers outside the team, that’s going to be viewed very seriously and obviously is. The more serious–that’s not good–but what’s really serious now for the team, for the Mueller team to have concluded that Paul Manafort has not been forthcoming, has been telling lies–and I’ll tell you this from my own experience. That’s the one thing that prosecutors are going to tell a cooperating witness: ‘We can only deal with the truth, whatever it is. If it exculpates that’s fine. What we can’t deal with are lies,’ and that means the hammer is really coming to Paul Manafort.
Berman then shifted the discussion back to allegations that Manafort had been providing information to Trump’s legal team about ongoing Mueller inquiry.
“There are some people suggesting that Paul Manafort is working as some kind of a mole for the president’s legal team here if his lawyers are all of a sudden sharing everything that the Mueller team is asking,” Berman prompted.
Starr confirmed the potential pitfalls for Manafort if the mole charges are indeed true–but offered an important caveat.
“If you’re cooperating with the government, you should not be sharing information,” Starr said, “Unless it’s been understood. Hey, you’ve got to be transparent. And if you’re not transparent as that cooperating witness, the government is really going to come down really hard on you. Yeah, if he’s been sharing very helpful information, just call it a bad move in terms of his situation.”
[image via screengrab/CNN]