In a defiant court filing on Wednesday, lawyers for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort rejected Special Counsel Robert Mueller's claims that their client repeatedly lied to investigators after agreeing to cooperate in a plea deal late last year.
The heavily redacted response by Manafort's lawyers also charged that Mueller's office, "rather than setting out the facts and documents for Mr. Manafort and asking questions about them," chose to "test Mr. Manafort’s recall by revealing details along the way" -- a move the defense team called "unusual" in a sharply worded footnote.
Manafort's team asserted that a "fair reading" of Mueller's allegations "merely demonstrates a lack of consistency in Mr. Manafort’s recollection of certain facts and events" that occurred long before he was asked about them, or in the midst of the "high-pressure" 2016 presidential campaign.
Specifically, Mueller's office misread key text messages, and in one instance assumed that Manafort was making a statement when he was really repeating the views of another individual, according to the filing.
Manafort's team also argued that prosecutors had raised "relatively few issues" of concern despite "more than 12 proffer and interview sessions," to bolster their argument that Manafort unintentionally misremembered some facts, and did not set out to deceive investigators.
A hearing before Washington, D.C., U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is still set for Friday, and Mueller's team is expected to present more evidence and witnesses to back up its claims that Manafort's alleged misstatements were intentional, rather than inadvertent.
Citing "the significance of the issues at stake," Jackson issued a brief order late Wednesday requiring that Manafort personally attend Friday's hearing. Manafort had sought to waive his appearance.
"Given the number of court appearances defendant has been permitted to waive, the significance of the issues at stake, and the fact that his being available to consult with counsel may reduce the likelihood that the defense position with respect to the issues discussed will change after the hearing, defendant's motion is denied without prejudice to future motions," Jackson wrote in the minute order denying Manafort's request.
After being convicted by a jury in August in a Virginia federal court on bank and tax fraud charges, Manafort pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiracy against the U.S. in Jackson's court in September, and also acknowledged that he committed a slew of other crimes, including foreign registration violations and money laundering. But prosecutors agreed not to charge Manafort for those offenses pending his cooperation.
Just weeks later, in late November, Mueller’s team accused Manafort of lying about five issues: Manafort’s contact with administration officials; information “pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation”; his interactions and whether he shared polling data with Russian-Ukrainian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik; his comments about Kilimnik’s alleged participation in a conspiracy to obstruct justice and a wire transfer to a firm working for Manafort.
But in the court filing on Wednesday, Manafort's lawyers argued that Mueller's prosecutors were unfairly targeting their client for making understandable mistakes under pressure.
"Even if Mr. Manafort’s statements relating to the other DOJ investigation are viewed as inconsistent, they were corrected by Mr. Manafort during the same interview," the lawyers wrote.
"There statements do not support a conclusion that he intentionally lied; indeed, defense attorneys routinely refresh the recollection of their clients during meetings with government prosecutors," the filing continued. "Such sessions are often stressful for witnesses and there is nothing unusual or inappropriate in refreshing a witness’ recollection."
The document concluded: "Based upon the pleadings and record, Mr. Manafort does not believe the materials supplied by the [special counsel] demonstrate any intentional falsehoods on this part."
Fox News' Catherine Herridge and Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.