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Manafort's ex-son-in-law busy with Mueller's investigation

FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file

FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. It was one year ago Thursday when Robert Mueller, the former FBI director, was appointed as special counsel to take over the Justice Department's investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) Photo Credit: AP

WASHINGTON - (AP) -- Paul Manafort's former son-in-law says he has been so busy with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation that he's been unable to keep up with his other legal issues, according to a court filing and a lawyer involved in a civil lawsuit against him.

The confirmation of Jeffrey Yohai's extensive involvement with Mueller's ongoing investigation comes as he has been caught up in another investigation in New York and has cut a plea deal with federal prosecutors in California. The developments could increase the pressure on Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, who suffered a setback in his legal defense earlier this week when a judge denied his motion to dismiss charges filed against him.

According to a May 10 court filing in a New York civil case, Yohai claims he's missed deadlines to turn over documents in the case "due to his involvement in the federal investigation by Office of Special Counsel" and other matters.

Chris Spuches, a lawyer for the landlord suing Yohai in the case, said the judge wasn't impressed, saying "special counsel or no special counsel," he needed to produce documents and sit for a deposition.

During the hearing, Spuches said, Yohai's lawyer told him his client had been talking with Mueller's team and had at some point spoken to investigators without a lawyer present because "he said he didn't have anything to hide."

In a one-sentence email, Yohai's lawyer Steven Czik denied saying that to Spuches, adding that to his knowledge Yohai "has not appeared before special counsel." He wouldn't elaborate and did not respond to follow-up questions.

Yohai did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment. Other numbers associated with him were out of service.

In addition to his involvement in the special counsel investigation, Yohai has been caught up in separate probes in New York and California.

Yohai entered into a plea agreement months ago with federal prosecutors in California, who are investigating whether he misused funds from a construction loan and other financial dealings, according to a person familiar with the probe. That agreement is still under seal and it's unclear when the details of his cooperation will be publicly released, said the person, who wasn't permitted to publicly discuss the case and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

In recent months, Yohai has also met with investigators with the New York attorney general's office as part of its investigation of his financial dealings, according to another person familiar with the matter. That person wasn't authorized to publicly discuss a confidential investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni declined comment. A spokesman for the special counsel didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Manafort faces two criminal cases brought by the special counsel's office. Combined, the cases charge him with bank fraud, tax evasion, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and false statements related to his political work in Ukraine as well as loans he took out to purchase U.S. properties.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

Also Thursday, prosecutors in one of his cases handed over to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III a full copy of a memo detailing the specific activities Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate.

Prosecutors last month had publicly filed in court a heavily redacted copy of the three-page memo, revealing that Rosenstein had given Mueller authority to investigate Manafort's Ukrainian political work in addition to Russian election meddling. Ellis had bristled at the lack of transparency, and asked for a full copy filed to him under seal as he considers a motion by Manafort challenging the special counsel's authority to prosecute him.

In total, Mueller has brought charges against 19 people -- including four Trump aides -- and three Russian companies over the past year.

The Aug. 2 memo was drafted before any of the indictments and guilty pleas being filed by Mueller's office, so it likely contains references to some of those public cases.

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Pearson reported from New York.

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Follow Chad Day on Twitter: https://twitter.com/@ChadSDay

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