Judge grills Mueller team on claim Manafort lied; prosecutors say issue’s ‘at heart’ of Russia probe

A federal judge grilled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team earlier this week on its claims that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort intentionally lied to investigators, according to a newly released, partially redacted court transcript released Thursday.

Manafort, who avoided a second trial in Washington, D.C., last year by agreeing to cooperate with investigators, allegedly lied to prosecutors about five separate topics, including Manafort’s contact with administration officials; information “pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation,” and a $125,000 wire transfer to a firm working for Manafort.

But at the closed-door hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson repeatedly and bluntly pressed prosecutors to explain why Manafort’s misstatements, including some that he corrected voluntarily, should affect his upcoming sentencing.

The judge, who is also handling the ongoing criminal case against Trump associate Roger Stone, openly wondered whether prosecutors had bombarded Manafort with a series of difficult and irrelevant questions during the roughly 50 hours of interviews that followed his plea deal.