A Ukrainian political pundit and former government official said Tuesday that Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, did not ghostwrite an opinion piece he drafted to submit to a Kiev newspaper, as prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III have alleged.
On Monday, prosecutors withdrew their support from a deal that would have released Manafort from home detention while he awaits trial on charges of money laundering, fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent when he worked as a consultant to a Ukrainian political party.
Prosecutors argued that Manafort had violated a court order by secretely drafting the opinion piece, together with a longtime Russian colleague who prosecutors said has been assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.
But Oleg Voloshyn, who formerly served as a spokesman to Ukraine’s foreign minister, insisted that he wrote the opinion piece, not Manafort.
He said he emailed a copy to Konstantin Kilimnik, who for a decade managed Manafort’s political consulting office in Kiev, for fact checking but that the idea for the piece had not come from Manafort.
“They didn’t contact me,” Voloshyn said of Mueller’s team. “If they somehow got this email… the Mueller commission, they could have easily checked, am I real person or not? Did I write it or not? They didn’t do it.”
Voloshyn confirmed that prosecutors were referring to Kilimnik when they described Manafort’s Russian colleague who had worked on the editorial. But said he found their allegations that Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence “shocking,” insisting Kilimnik’s political views have always been pro-American.
Voloshyn said Kilimnik offered some edits, including suggesting adding several points to the draft. But Voloshyn, who now hosts a television program in Ukraine, insisted the changes were minor and that it had not been clear to him that any had originated from Manafort.
He provided both what he said was the rough draft of the opinion piece, as well as the final version to The Washington Post for review. The two versions open with the same anecdote and contain the same themes and much of the same language.
Some sections, however, appear to have been rewritten.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, declined to comment.
Manafort and Kilimnik were in close contact during the months that Manafort worked for Trump’s presidential campaign. They met twice in person, include an August 2016 dinner in New York City where Kilimnik has said their conversation included discussion of the presidential campaign.
Kilimnik, a Russian military veteran who graduated from a Moscow language university that experts say was a training ground for intelligence officers, has denied that he ever worked in intelligence. Manafort, too, has said he never knowingly spoke with a Russian intelligence officer.
Mueller’s prosecutors argued Manafort’s work on the op-ed violated a court order that prohibited parties in the case from making statements outside of court that could influence jurors.
In a four page filing on Monday, prosecutors said the editorial “clearly was undertaken to influene the public’s opinion of defendant Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication (much less for Manafort and his long-time associate to ghostwrite it in another’s name).”
It is not clear how prosecutors learned that Manafort was working on the op-ed, which was never published.
Voloshyn countered the editorial, submitted for consideration by the English-language Kyev Post, would have been unlikely to influence Washington-based jurors. What’s more, the draft does not discuss the criminal charges lodged against Manafort.
Instead, it argued that Manafort favored Ukraine’s integration with Europe and had opposed Russia’s interests.
Voloshyn said he wrote it as a rebuttal to people in the United States and Ukraine who have argued that everyone who worked with the government of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, including Manafort, had pushed Ukraine to Russia. Manafort had helped Yanukovych win office in 2010; Voloshyn worked for Yanukovych’s foreign minister. In 2014, Yanukovych fled to Moscow amid public protests.
“Yes, I don’t deny, if it could be helpful to Manafort, that was okay,” Voloshyn said of his editorial. “But the point was to prove that not just him, but me, my foreign ministry, that we had all worked on European integration for three years.”
Voloshyn’s proposed headline for the piece, according to the draft he provided, was “EU-Ukraine Association Agreement might have never appeared but for a person now falsely accused of lobbying Russian interests.”
In an interview in June with The Post, Voloshyn had likewise argued that Manafort had been a staunch advocate of Ukraine’s European integration.
On Tuesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered that Manafort respond to the prosecutors’ filing on his bail by Friday.
The special counsel has now asked the judge to either keep Manafort under home confinement pending further negotiations, or impose additional restrictions on him.
As for the draft opinion piece, the editor of the Kyev Post told Bloomberg Tuesday that he had rejected the article after it was submitted for publication. It was too pro-Manafort.