WASHINGTON – Special counsel Robert Mueller almost certainly knows the identity of the “senior Israeli official” mentioned in the Paul Manafort indictment, attorney Alan Dershowitz told Haaretz on Sunday.
“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.
On Friday, court documents related to Mueller’s plea deal with Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, exposed a previously unreported connection between Manafort and a “senior Israeli official” during the 2012 Ukrainian election, at a time when Manafort was doing lobbying work for Ukraine’s then President, the pro-Russian Victor Yanukovich.
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Manafort, according to the court documents, used a statement by the unnamed senior Israeli official accusing some of his client’s political opponents in Ukraine of anti-Semitism. The aim of Manafort’s maneuver was to make the Jewish American community (or in his own words, “Obama Jews”) pressure Obama to support Yanukovich, who is an ally of Vladimir Putin.
Following the release of the court documents, politicians in Israel have called on the government to investigate who was the “senior official” who worked with Manafort in 2012. Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay and Former Meretz chairwoman Zahava Galon sent letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the attorney general asking to launch an immediate investigation into whether a foreign agent is operating within the Israeli government. Galon asked the attorney general "to order a criminal investigation against the senior Israeli official who was involved in this serious matter."
Dershowitz told Haaretz that he would be surprised if Mueller doesn’t know the Israeli official’s name - and that the name wasn’t mentioned because that person is not suspect of any criminal behavior.
“You don’t put a person’s name in an indictment unless they did something wrong,” he explained. “It was perfectly reasonable for an Israeli to be willing to hear information about potential anti-Semitism,” Dershowitz added.
“The mere fact that this official spoke to Manafort doesn’t seem to indicate any wrongdoing on behalf of the official,” Dershowitz said. “The senior Israeli official probably didn’t know that Manafort was engaged in unregistered lobbying activities.”
The office of special counsel Mueller told Haaretz in reply to a question on the subject that “court rules require that uncharged individuals not be identified by name in court documents, so we will decline to provide additional information beyond the court documents.”
On Friday, when the news first broke, there were speculations in Israel that the “senior Israeli official” could be then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who published a statement resembling the one mentioned in the court documents. Lieberman, who currently serves as the Minister of Defense, said on Friday that he has never met with or spoken to Manafort.