Manafort Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Mueller Probe

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges Friday in connection with his past lobbying efforts on behalf of Ukraine. As part of the plea deal, Manafort has also agreed to cooperate in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election led by special counsel Robert Mueller. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

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Report: UN Poverty Targets Remain Off Course

Aid money urgently needs to be redirected to the poorest countries in order to reach the United Nations’ goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, according to a report.

The London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says middle-income countries receive more aid than the 30 poorest nations. It also warns that at least 400 million people will still be living on less than $1.90 a day, despite government pledges to eliminate all extreme poverty.

In northern Ethiopia, teams of workers dig irrigation channels through orchards and grain fields. Such projects have turned arid plains into fertile farmland, which has quadrupled agricultural production.

The report from the ODI credits Ethiopia’s “Productive Safety Net Program,” launched in 2005, with lifting 1.4 million people out of extreme poverty. It also enabled Ethiopia to avoid another famine during severe droughts in 2010 and 2015.

In contrast, neighboring Uganda has seen extreme poverty levels rise recently, after a rapid reduction in previous years.

“One of the reasons is because climate change is starting to have an impact in that country,” said Marcus Manuel, author of the ODI report. “Now in Ethiopia, they’ve managed, with a lot of support partly from the U.S., to have programs that support farmers when a sudden climate or weather event happens. In Uganda, they didn’t. So when they had a drought, that led to a real increase in poverty. So it’s a matter of having the right systems in place.”

Ethiopia’s program, the largest of any low-income country, pays beneficiaries to work on public works projects such as irrigation, roads, schools and health clinics, which helps to create long-term poverty relief.

Such programs are vital in ending extreme poverty, according to the ODI report. The report says there is an annual funding shortfall of $125 billion in the three core sectors of education, health and what it terms social protection transfers, or welfare.

“You need to do economic growth to do part of things, and you also need investment in the social sectors,” Manuel said. “You need to have both sides of the coin to make this work. Donors are investing both in growth and in social sectors, but they’re not investing it in the right countries to nearly the extent that’s needed. And, in particular, in this report we’ve identified 29 countries which can’t afford the investment needed in the social sectors and donors are not giving enough money to that group of countries.”

The statistics show middle-income countries receive more aid than poorer countries, whose share of global aid has fallen over the past six years from 30 percent to 24 percent.

In addition to better aid allocation, the report says more donor nations need to reach the U.N. goal of allocating at least 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to aid budgets. Without urgent action, the authors warn the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 will remain out of reach.

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Report: UN Poverty Targets Remain Off Course

Aid money urgently needs to be redirected to the poorest countries in order to reach the United Nations’ goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, according to a report.

The London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says middle-income countries receive more aid than the 30 poorest nations. It also warns that at least 400 million people will still be living on less than $1.90 a day, despite government pledges to eliminate all extreme poverty.

In northern Ethiopia, teams of workers dig irrigation channels through orchards and grain fields. Such projects have turned arid plains into fertile farmland, which has quadrupled agricultural production.

The report from the ODI credits Ethiopia’s “Productive Safety Net Program,” launched in 2005, with lifting 1.4 million people out of extreme poverty. It also enabled Ethiopia to avoid another famine during severe droughts in 2010 and 2015.

In contrast, neighboring Uganda has seen extreme poverty levels rise recently, after a rapid reduction in previous years.

“One of the reasons is because climate change is starting to have an impact in that country,” said Marcus Manuel, author of the ODI report. “Now in Ethiopia, they’ve managed, with a lot of support partly from the U.S., to have programs that support farmers when a sudden climate or weather event happens. In Uganda, they didn’t. So when they had a drought, that led to a real increase in poverty. So it’s a matter of having the right systems in place.”

Ethiopia’s program, the largest of any low-income country, pays beneficiaries to work on public works projects such as irrigation, roads, schools and health clinics, which helps to create long-term poverty relief.

Such programs are vital in ending extreme poverty, according to the ODI report. The report says there is an annual funding shortfall of $125 billion in the three core sectors of education, health and what it terms social protection transfers, or welfare.

“You need to do economic growth to do part of things, and you also need investment in the social sectors,” Manuel said. “You need to have both sides of the coin to make this work. Donors are investing both in growth and in social sectors, but they’re not investing it in the right countries to nearly the extent that’s needed. And, in particular, in this report we’ve identified 29 countries which can’t afford the investment needed in the social sectors and donors are not giving enough money to that group of countries.”

The statistics show middle-income countries receive more aid than poorer countries, whose share of global aid has fallen over the past six years from 30 percent to 24 percent.

In addition to better aid allocation, the report says more donor nations need to reach the U.N. goal of allocating at least 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to aid budgets. Without urgent action, the authors warn the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 will remain out of reach.

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Kavanaugh Denies Allegation of Sexual Misconduct in School

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school.

In a statement released by the White House, Kavanaugh said: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Kavanaugh’s statement comes after Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she has notified federal investigators about information she received about the nominee but won’t disclose publicly.

The New Yorker reported the alleged incident took place at a party when Kavanaugh, now 53, was attending Georgetown Preparatory School. The woman making the allegation attended a nearby school.

The magazine says the woman sent a letter about the allegation to Democrats. A Democratic aide and another person familiar with the letter confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that the allegation is sexual in nature. Two other people familiar with the matter confirmed to the AP that the alleged incident happened in high school. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The AP has not confirmed the details of the alleged incident in The New Yorker’s account.

Other women back Kavanaugh

Rallying to Kavanaugh’s defense, 65 women who knew him in high school issued a letter, released by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying he has “always treated women with decency and respect.”

“We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983,” wrote the women, who said most of them had attended all-girl high schools in the area. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”

The Judiciary Committee, which has finished confirmation hearings for Kavanagh, is scheduled to vote next Thursday on whether to recommend that he be confirmed by the full Senate.

The White House called Feinstein’s move an “11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.”

The California Democrat said in a statement Thursday that she “received information from an individual concerning the nomination.” She said the person “strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision.”

The FBI confirmed that it received the information Wednesday evening and included it in Kavanaugh’s background file, which is maintained as part of his nomination. The agency said that is its standard process.

Feinstein’s statement that she has “referred the matter to federal investigative authorities” jolted Capitol Hill and threatened to disrupt what has been a steady path toward confirmation for Kavanaugh by Republicans eager to see the conservative judge on the court.

Lawmakers react

Feinstein has held the letter close. Democratic senators on the panel met privately Wednesday evening and discussed the information, according to Senate aides who were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some senators, including the No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, learned about the information for the first time at the meeting, according to one of the aides.

A spokeswoman for Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, declined to confirm reports that the congresswoman had forwarded a letter containing the allegations to Feinstein. She said her office has a confidentiality policy regarding casework for constituents.

A White House spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said the FBI has vetted Kavanaugh “thoroughly and repeatedly” during his career in government and the judiciary.

She said Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators — including with Feinstein — sat through over 30 hours of testimony and publicly addressed more than 2,000 questions. “Not until the eve of his confirmation has Senator Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him,” she said.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican and a member of the committee, was also skeptical.

“Let me get this straight: this is (sic) statement about secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right,” he tweeted.

Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, was unaware of the information until it was made public, according to a GOP committee aide. Kavanaugh has undergone six federal background checks over time in government, including one most recently for the nomination, the aide said.

The new information on Kavanaugh was included Thursday in his confidential background file at the committee and is now available for senators to review, the aide said.

Democrats don’t have the votes to block Kavanaugh’s nomination if Republicans are unified in favor of it.

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Kavanaugh Denies Allegation of Sexual Misconduct in School

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school.

In a statement released by the White House, Kavanaugh said: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Kavanaugh’s statement comes after Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she has notified federal investigators about information she received about the nominee but won’t disclose publicly.

The New Yorker reported the alleged incident took place at a party when Kavanaugh, now 53, was attending Georgetown Preparatory School. The woman making the allegation attended a nearby school.

The magazine says the woman sent a letter about the allegation to Democrats. A Democratic aide and another person familiar with the letter confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that the allegation is sexual in nature. Two other people familiar with the matter confirmed to the AP that the alleged incident happened in high school. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The AP has not confirmed the details of the alleged incident in The New Yorker’s account.

Other women back Kavanaugh

Rallying to Kavanaugh’s defense, 65 women who knew him in high school issued a letter, released by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying he has “always treated women with decency and respect.”

“We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983,” wrote the women, who said most of them had attended all-girl high schools in the area. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”

The Judiciary Committee, which has finished confirmation hearings for Kavanagh, is scheduled to vote next Thursday on whether to recommend that he be confirmed by the full Senate.

The White House called Feinstein’s move an “11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.”

The California Democrat said in a statement Thursday that she “received information from an individual concerning the nomination.” She said the person “strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision.”

The FBI confirmed that it received the information Wednesday evening and included it in Kavanaugh’s background file, which is maintained as part of his nomination. The agency said that is its standard process.

Feinstein’s statement that she has “referred the matter to federal investigative authorities” jolted Capitol Hill and threatened to disrupt what has been a steady path toward confirmation for Kavanaugh by Republicans eager to see the conservative judge on the court.

Lawmakers react

Feinstein has held the letter close. Democratic senators on the panel met privately Wednesday evening and discussed the information, according to Senate aides who were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some senators, including the No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, learned about the information for the first time at the meeting, according to one of the aides.

A spokeswoman for Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, declined to confirm reports that the congresswoman had forwarded a letter containing the allegations to Feinstein. She said her office has a confidentiality policy regarding casework for constituents.

A White House spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said the FBI has vetted Kavanaugh “thoroughly and repeatedly” during his career in government and the judiciary.

She said Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators — including with Feinstein — sat through over 30 hours of testimony and publicly addressed more than 2,000 questions. “Not until the eve of his confirmation has Senator Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him,” she said.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican and a member of the committee, was also skeptical.

“Let me get this straight: this is (sic) statement about secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right,” he tweeted.

Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, was unaware of the information until it was made public, according to a GOP committee aide. Kavanaugh has undergone six federal background checks over time in government, including one most recently for the nomination, the aide said.

The new information on Kavanaugh was included Thursday in his confidential background file at the committee and is now available for senators to review, the aide said.

Democrats don’t have the votes to block Kavanaugh’s nomination if Republicans are unified in favor of it.

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Trump Tells Aides to Proceed With More Tariffs on Chinese Goods

U.S. media reports said Friday that President Donald Trump has instructed aides to proceed with tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese products.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg and Reuters said the president wanted to move forward with the additional duties even though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is trying to restart trade talks with Beijing.

The reports sent stocks falling Friday and led to a drop in the Chinese yuan.

The White House did not immediately comment on the reports.

Bloomberg reported that Trump met Thursday with his top trade advisers to discuss the tariffs, including Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The meeting was not on Trump’s public schedule.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Trump said on Twitter that he felt “no pressure” to make a deal with Beijing, saying “they are under pressure to make a deal with us.” He also raised questions about whether new talks between the United States and China would happen, saying the U.S. “will soon be taking in Billions in Tariffs & making products at home. If we meet, we meet?”

A public comment period for the proposed new tariffs ended last week. The U.S. trade representative’s office received nearly 6,000 comments on the proposal.

Even more tariffs

Last week, Trump threatened even more tariffs on Chinese items — duties on another $267 worth of goods, which when combined with the others would cover virtually all the products that China sends to the United States.

“That changes the equation,” he told reporters.

The Untied States has already imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, leading China to retaliate on an equal amount of U.S. goods. 

The Trump administration has argued that tariffs on Chinese goods would force China to trade on more favorable terms with the United States.

It has demanded that China better protect American intellectual property, including ending cybertheft. The Trump administration has also called on China to allow U.S. companies greater access to Chinese markets and to cut its U.S. trade surplus.

China has threatened to retaliate against any potential new tariffs. However, China’s imports from the United States are worth $200 billion a year less than American imports from China, so it would run out of room to match U.S. sanctions.

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Trump Tells Aides to Proceed With More Tariffs on Chinese Goods

U.S. media reports said Friday that President Donald Trump has instructed aides to proceed with tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese products.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg and Reuters said the president wanted to move forward with the additional duties even though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is trying to restart trade talks with Beijing.

The reports sent stocks falling Friday and led to a drop in the Chinese yuan.

The White House did not immediately comment on the reports.

Bloomberg reported that Trump met Thursday with his top trade advisers to discuss the tariffs, including Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The meeting was not on Trump’s public schedule.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Trump said on Twitter that he felt “no pressure” to make a deal with Beijing, saying “they are under pressure to make a deal with us.” He also raised questions about whether new talks between the United States and China would happen, saying the U.S. “will soon be taking in Billions in Tariffs & making products at home. If we meet, we meet?”

A public comment period for the proposed new tariffs ended last week. The U.S. trade representative’s office received nearly 6,000 comments on the proposal.

Even more tariffs

Last week, Trump threatened even more tariffs on Chinese items — duties on another $267 worth of goods, which when combined with the others would cover virtually all the products that China sends to the United States.

“That changes the equation,” he told reporters.

The Untied States has already imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, leading China to retaliate on an equal amount of U.S. goods. 

The Trump administration has argued that tariffs on Chinese goods would force China to trade on more favorable terms with the United States.

It has demanded that China better protect American intellectual property, including ending cybertheft. The Trump administration has also called on China to allow U.S. companies greater access to Chinese markets and to cut its U.S. trade surplus.

China has threatened to retaliate against any potential new tariffs. However, China’s imports from the United States are worth $200 billion a year less than American imports from China, so it would run out of room to match U.S. sanctions.

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Sources: Former Trump Aide Manafort Close to Plea Deal With Mueller

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is nearing a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors to avoid a second criminal trial, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

A move by Manafort to cooperate could be a blow to Trump, while an outright guilty plea with no cooperation would resolve a cloud over the president ahead of congressional elections in less than two months.

“It’s close but not there yet,” one of the sources said about negotiations over a deal.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Washington, D.C., on Monday in Manafort’s second trial in federal court on charges including conspiring to launder money and defraud the United States, and failing to register as a foreign agent for the tens of millions of dollars he earned lobbying for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Manafort was convicted in Virginia on eight counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts in the first trial that ended last month. Prosecutors said he evaded taxes on $16 million laundered through shell companies overseas.

The talks over a deal come ahead of a planned hearing in Washington on Friday where the judge, among other things, is scheduled to rule on evidence to be allowed at trial. Manafort could plead guilty at the hearing, one of the sources said.

Three members of Manafort’s defense team — Kevin Downing,Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling — declined to comment as they entered their office on Thursday evening. Mueller’s spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the possible deal, which was first reported by ABC News.

Manafort’s wife Kathleen also did not answer questions when she stopped by the lawyers’ office to drop off a navy men’s suit.

‘Bloodied up’

Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it made sense that Manafort, 69, was considering cutting his losses and avoiding the time and money needed to defend himself against a second trial.

Manafort is already facing 8 to 10 years in prison from the eight guilty counts in Virginia, terms that may not change significantly no matter the outcome of the second trial.

“With eight convictions already in place, and more possible convictions awaiting him, it seems that he has been bloodied up enough to see the light,” Dressler said.

Manafort worked for five months on Trump’s 2016 campaign, including three as chairman. He resigned in August 2016 following a news report linking him to covert payments from a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russia probe, previously told the Politico news outlet that taking a plea deal to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort’s chances of receiving an

eventual presidential pardon. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort but he has not publicly ruled it out.

Manafort was at a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 where Russians were offering “dirt” on election opponent Hillary Clinton. Trump’s critics have pointed to the meeting as evidence of the collusion with Russia that Trump denies.

“I don’t think he has any information that would hurt the president,” Giuliani told Reuters.

Trump praised Manafort last month for not entering into a plea agreement, as the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.”Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal. Such respect for a brave man!,” Trump wrote on Twitter on August 22.

Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and the campaign’s deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia.

Gates could be called as a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well, as could veteran political operative Samuel Patten, who pleaded guilty to unregistered lobbying for Ukrainian politicians two weeks ago.

A second trial could delve deeper into Manafort’s Russian connections including to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller’s team has linked to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial.

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Sources: Former Trump Aide Manafort Close to Plea Deal With Mueller

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is nearing a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors to avoid a second criminal trial, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

A move by Manafort to cooperate could be a blow to Trump, while an outright guilty plea with no cooperation would resolve a cloud over the president ahead of congressional elections in less than two months.

“It’s close but not there yet,” one of the sources said about negotiations over a deal.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Washington, D.C., on Monday in Manafort’s second trial in federal court on charges including conspiring to launder money and defraud the United States, and failing to register as a foreign agent for the tens of millions of dollars he earned lobbying for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Manafort was convicted in Virginia on eight counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts in the first trial that ended last month. Prosecutors said he evaded taxes on $16 million laundered through shell companies overseas.

The talks over a deal come ahead of a planned hearing in Washington on Friday where the judge, among other things, is scheduled to rule on evidence to be allowed at trial. Manafort could plead guilty at the hearing, one of the sources said.

Three members of Manafort’s defense team — Kevin Downing,Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling — declined to comment as they entered their office on Thursday evening. Mueller’s spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the possible deal, which was first reported by ABC News.

Manafort’s wife Kathleen also did not answer questions when she stopped by the lawyers’ office to drop off a navy men’s suit.

‘Bloodied up’

Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it made sense that Manafort, 69, was considering cutting his losses and avoiding the time and money needed to defend himself against a second trial.

Manafort is already facing 8 to 10 years in prison from the eight guilty counts in Virginia, terms that may not change significantly no matter the outcome of the second trial.

“With eight convictions already in place, and more possible convictions awaiting him, it seems that he has been bloodied up enough to see the light,” Dressler said.

Manafort worked for five months on Trump’s 2016 campaign, including three as chairman. He resigned in August 2016 following a news report linking him to covert payments from a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russia probe, previously told the Politico news outlet that taking a plea deal to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort’s chances of receiving an

eventual presidential pardon. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort but he has not publicly ruled it out.

Manafort was at a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 where Russians were offering “dirt” on election opponent Hillary Clinton. Trump’s critics have pointed to the meeting as evidence of the collusion with Russia that Trump denies.

“I don’t think he has any information that would hurt the president,” Giuliani told Reuters.

Trump praised Manafort last month for not entering into a plea agreement, as the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.”Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal. Such respect for a brave man!,” Trump wrote on Twitter on August 22.

Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and the campaign’s deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia.

Gates could be called as a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well, as could veteran political operative Samuel Patten, who pleaded guilty to unregistered lobbying for Ukrainian politicians two weeks ago.

A second trial could delve deeper into Manafort’s Russian connections including to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller’s team has linked to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial.

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US Imposes New Sanctions Targeting North Korea

The U.S. sanctioned a China-based firm Thursday and its Russian subsidiary connected to North Korea, the latest in the Trump administration’s attempts to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Lawmakers applauded the move as they received an update from administration officials on U.S. sanctions countering Russian aggression and Chinese human rights violations. VOA’s congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more from Capitol Hill.

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