Paul Manafort, embattled former Trump campaign manager whose bail was revoked on June 15 after the special counsel charged him with witness tampering, has filed a request of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals asking to be released so he can prepare for his two upcoming trials.
The request was filed Thursday night, Politico reports, and claims the evidence for the witness tampering charge is “thin – to be generous”.
“The detention order gravely impairs Mr. Manafort’s ability to prepare his defense in the two federal criminal trials that are set to begin imminently,” Manafort’s defense lawyers wrote. “Mr. Manafort—a 69-year-old man facing criminal charges in two complex federal cases—is now being housed in solitary confinement, locked in his cell for 24 hours per day (excluding visits from his attorneys), at a facility that is approximately two hours away from his legal team in Washington, D.C. Under these circumstances, it is impossible to prepare for his upcoming trials.”
Manafort’s lawyers argue that significance of Manafort’s contacts, allegedly to shape the testimonies of Friedman and Sager, two men who worked with him in a Ukrainian lobbying campaign, are being exaggerated by the prosecution. They also claim the order restricting contacts with witnesses only apply to the charges in Virginia and that the contacts came prior to Ellis’ order.
The court filing also claims that Manafort’s contacts with Friedman and Sager, via encrypted messages, were innocent in nature.
Mr.Manafort contacted those individuals merely to give them a “heads-up” about developing
news relating to the February 23, 2018 superseding indictment, which for the first
time raised allegations related to the Hapsburg Group.
The prosecution argues that Paul Manafort, aided by his long time Ukrainian protege with ties to GRU (Russian military intelligence), Konstantin Kilimnik, contacted Friedman and Sager over the phone and via encrypted text messages, in February, with the intent of swaying their testimony.
US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson revoked Manafort’s bail on the grounds that he had violated Judge Ellis’ order that he have no contact “directly or indirectly with any person who is a victim or a witness in the investigation”, stating that Manafort had also violated a standard bail condition that a defendant not commit a crime while awaiting trial.
Since June 15, Manafort has been held in the VIP wing of the Northern Neck Regional Jail and isolated from the other prisoners. The jail is located about two hours from Washington DC. Prior to being taken into custody, he had been on house arrest and fitted with two GPS ankle monitors.
⊕ Paul Manafort faces two complex trials in the next few months.
- His Alexandria Virginia trial is scheduled to start July 25. He faces charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and failing to report foreign bank accounts.
- His DC trial is scheduled for September 17. He faces charges of money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, and witness tampering.
⊕ Manafort was Trump campaign manager for 5 months before resigning after secret payments from a pro-Russian Ukrainian party were revealed.
⊕ Court documents unsealed on Wednesday revealed that Manafort was given a loan of $10 million by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in 2010, showing an even closer relationship between Manafort and Deripaska than was previously known.
⊕ Judge Ellis ruled earlier this week, that Manafort’s Virginia trial will go forward and stated the special counsel has the authority to pursue the charges.