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Paul Manafort. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

In a partially-redacted transcript of a hearing this week, Judge Amy Berman Jackson called direct attention to the significance of lies Paul Manafort told about longtime business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the Mueller investigation believes has ties to Russian intelligence.

"[W]e've now spent considerable time talking about multiple clusters of false or misleading or incomplete or need-to be-prodded-by-counsel statements, all of which center around the defendant's relationship or communications with Mr. Kilimnik. This is a topic at the undisputed core of the Office of Special Counsel's investigation..."

Why it matters: Manafort, who prosecutors said on Friday could face between 19 and 24 years in prison for financial crimes, had the chance to cooperate with the special counsel in exchange for leniency. And yet he chose to throw that opportunity away and risk spending the rest of his life in prison by lying to investigators, including — among other details — about his interactions with Kilimnik.

What we know: Kilimnik served as Manafort's liason to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and was in frequent communication with Manafort while he was working as Trump's unpaid campaign manager, according to the Washington Post. He served in the Soviet army and is believed to have been an officer in the GRU, the Russian intelligence agency indicted by Mueller for hacking and leading the interference effort in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

  • Deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates, who is a cooperating witness, told the special counsel that Manafort shared 2016 campaign polling data with Kilimnik. Manafort subsequently lied to investigators about doing so — one of the false statements that caused him to breach his plea deal.

What we don't know: It's unclear when Manafort shared the data and whether it was public or private campaign information. Notably, however, Manafort's defense attorney told Judge Jackson in a hearing that the data was too complex to be of any use to Kilimnik: "It frankly, to me, is gibberish ... It’s not easily understandable."

  • Jackson responded: "That’s what makes it significant and unusual.”

The bottom line: Jackson called Manafort's lies "a problematic attempt to shield his Russian conspirator from liability," raising "legitimate questions about where his loyalties lie." It's a remarkable statement from a federal judge who knows far more than the public about what exactly Robert Mueller has uncovered.

Go deeper: Every big move in the Mueller investigation

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  2. World: Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of cases.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
  8. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 7 hours ago - Economy & Business

Dunkin' Brands agrees to $11B Inspire Brands sale

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Dunkin' Brands, operator of both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, agreed on Friday to be taken private for nearly $11.3 billion, including debt, by Inspire Brands, a restaurant platform sponsored by private equity firm Roark Capital.

Why it matters: Buying Dunkin’ will more than double Inspire’s footprint, making it one of the biggest restaurant deals in the past 10 years. This could ultimately set up an IPO for Inspire, which already owns Arby's, Jimmy John's and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Ina Fried, author of Login
9 hours ago - Technology

Federal judge halts Trump administration limit on TikTok

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A federal judge on Friday issued an injunction preventing the Trump administration from imposing limits on the distribution of TikTok, Bloomberg reports. The injunction request came as part of a suit brought by creators who make a living on the video service.

Why it matters: The administration has been seeking to force a sale of, or block, the Chinese-owned service. It also moved to ban the service from operating in the U.S. as of Nov. 12, a move which was put on hold by Friday's injunction.