Israel's Defense Chief Calls for Probe Into Identity of Top Official Embroiled in Manafort Case

Special counsel Robert Mueller's office tells Haaretz that it cannot reveal more details regarding individuals who were not accused in the case

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (left) and Paul Manafort.
Yiannis Kourtoglou/ Reuters, AFP

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on Sunday for Israel to open a probe into the identity of the top official embroiled in the case of Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign manager. 

Lieberman's office confirmed a report by the Israel Television News Company that the defense minister had turned to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked with a request that her ministry act to reveal the identity of the Israeli official. 

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Despite Lieberman's demand, special counsel Robert Mueller's office told Haaretz Sunday that it could not expose further information in the affair regarding individuals who are not defined as suspects in the case. 

The plea deal between Manafort and Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was published Friday. The document alleges that a senior Israeli government official conspired with Manafort in 2012 to defame then-Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko by accusing her of maintaining ties with anti-Semitic groups. Manafort said that, as a result, American Jews would pressure the Obama administration not to support Yulia Tymoshenko, whose opponent was a client of Manafort’s, the indictment says.

>> Read more: Which Top Israeli Official Was a Foreign Agent in Manafort Case? Israeli Politicians Demand Immediate Probe

Manafort served for years as a political advisor and lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine.

Lieberman's office said Sunday that "the wording of the condemnation published by the Foreign Ministry at the time was correct and at the right timing, against an anti-Semitic party that spread its diabolic doctrine on dozens of occasions. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman does not know Manafort, he has never met him and has never spoken with him. The rest if science fiction for conspiracy fans."|

Earlier on Sunday, Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to launch an immediate investigation into whether a foreign agent is operating within the Israeli government. 

U.S. attorney Alan Dershowitz claimed on Sunday that despite the mystery surrounding the identity of the Israeli official embroiled in the case, he was sure that Mueller knew who it was. 

“Manafort is cooperating, so I’m sure Mueller knows the name,” Dershowitz said. He added that the Israeli official’s name was not mentioned in the court documents “because the official probably didn’t do anything illegal.” 

Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, has become one of the most prominent legal commentators on the Mueller investigation over the past year. He has often criticized Mueller and accused the special counsel of unfair treatment of Trump. He has also visited the White House on a number of occasions since Trump became president, although he said that the visits focused on Trump’s Middle East policy.