The obstruction charges are related to a filing earlier this week in which Mueller's investigators alleged that Manafort and Kilimnik, also linked to Russia's intelligence service, attempted to tamper with the two un-named witnesses - going so far as to allegedly coach their testimony.
Manafort worked with a lobbying firm that enlisted former European politicians, the so-called Hapsburg group, who wrote articles and addressed USA politicians.
Manafort's lawyers responded to those allegations in a sharply worded filing late Friday, accusing Mueller of contriving "dubious allegations" of witness tampering and, in so doing, poisoning the jury pool ahead of his trials.
Manafort allegedly sent one of the executives a text that said: "We should talk". The spokesman, Jason Maloni, said Friday that Manafort and his attorneys were reviewing the new charges.
Manafort's resignation from the campaign was announced on August 19, 2016, after The Times reported that he'd received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from Yanukovych's pro-Russian party between 2007 and 2012.
Prosecutors complained to a federal judge earlier this week that Manafort - and, apparently, Kilimnik - had been contacting people who knew about that work to ask them to tell jurors that the Ukraine lobbying had only taken place inside Europe. Kilimnik also reached out to witnesses in April. The work is the basis for the criminal case in Washington where Manafort faces charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, money-laundering conspiracy and false statements.
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Mueller has a broad mandate to investigate any possible collusion between Trump's 2016 election campaign team and Russian Federation, including possible obstruction of the investigation by President Donald Trump and any others.
Kilimnik, according to court papers, wrote a message to the other executive two days later saying: "Basically P wants to give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the United States, and the goal of the program was European Union".
Earlier this week, Trump tweeted that Manafort "came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time". The charges stemmed from his PR and campaign work for former pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. He was actually charged with one count of obstruction, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Manafort is now under house arrest. "Closer scrutiny of this "evidence" reveals that the Special Counsel's allegations are without merit because Mr. Manafort's limited communications can not be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness". The judge demanded to see the memo because the charges brought against Manafort are well outside the scope of the Russian Federation probe. His co-defendant Gates pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
He was described as the intermediary through which Manafort volunteered to brief his onetime client, aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, about the Trump campaign.
"This is an alleged Russian spy committing crimes with the former campaign chairman for Trump", Mariotti said. But Mueller has incorporated that investigation into his own probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump associates. He also has denied being connected to Russian intelligence agencies. The deal was the subject of a long-running legal dispute, with Deripaska claiming Manafort had defrauded him.