Inside The Court Room After The Manafort Indictment Dropped

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, departs at Federal District Court in Washington, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Manafort, and a former business associate, Rick Gates, have been told to surrender to federal authorities Monday, according to reports and a person familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP
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Even before Paul Manafort left his home in Alexandria, Virginia, early Monday morning to turn himself in to the FBI, reporters were waiting at the DC federal courthouse where he would appear later in the day.

By 1:30 p.m. ET, when Manafort and his longtime business partner Rick Gates, were schedule for an initial appearance, a queue of reporters lined the entire hallway up to U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson’s courtroom, a short walk from where the grand jury that approved of their indictment has been meeting.

For Russia investigation that has featured many surprise twists and turns, the dropping of a sprawling indictment against Manafort and Gates was a much anticipated blockbuster occasion. They are accused of an assortment of financial crimes, as well as failing to disclose foreign lobbying, not directly connected to the 2016 campaign.

 

The reporters awaiting Manafort’s and Gates’ arrival packed the last four rows of Robinson’s courtroom, while attorneys for the government clustered in the front two rows. Speaking for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was Greg Andres, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s criminal division. He was joined in the well by Andrew Weissman, an aggressive former federal prosecutor who has already made his mark on the Mueller probe.

Manafort, in a dark, pin-stripped suit and a bright blue tie, showed almost no emotion over the course of his appearance. He was represented by Kevin Downing, formerly of Miller & Chevalier.

Gates was represented by an assistant federal public defender, David Bos, in what was a likely temporary arrangement before he retained private counsel. When the hearing kicked off at about 1:45 p.m. ET, the attorneys for Manafort and Gates entered not guilty pleas to all counts.

Andres alleged that Manafort was a flight risk because of the nature and seriousness of the charges, and also because of his “significant” ties abroad. Gates too was a flight risk, Andres contended.

In discussing the details of a potential bond agreement, Andres said that the government had a “difficult time” determining the assets of both Manafort and Gates. He said their net worth estimates “varied significantly” depending on the documents being looked at, with the estimates for Manafort’s net worth spanning between $20 million and $100 million, and for Gates $2 million and $30 million.

Andres signaled the government’s openness to the two men being placed in home confinement while more details about their finances were learned for the final bond package. He suggested an unsecured appearance bond of $10 million for Manafort and $5 million for Gates, the amounts Manafort or Gates would have to pay, respectively, if they didn’t show up to their court appearances.

Downing, while disputing the strength of the government’s indictment, accepted for Manafort the home confinement conditions laid out by the government. Bos, on behalf of Gates, also was open to the home confinement offer, but needed to learn more about whether it was workable for Gates’ house in Richmond, where the home monitoring services would need to be operated by the Eastern District of Virginia.

During the proceedings, it was revealed that Manafort had turned his passport into the FBI Sunday morning and that Gates’ passport was also in the possession of the U.S. government.

A 40-minute recess was taken to discuss logistics, as reporters darted in and out of the courtroom to update their editors and tweet out Manafort’s and Gates’ pleas.

When the recess concluded at about 2:40 p.m. ET, Saul Atencio, of pretrial services, confirmed that Gates would be able to utilize the home monitoring services of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The judge approved the home confinement conditions, and both Manafort and Gates, with stone faces, swore to meet its requirements. They will appear in the courthouse again, in front of Judge Amy Berman Jackson, on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Manafort’s somber and unemotional demeanor was a contrast to the frenzy outside of the courthouse. Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Downing was vehement that the allegations against Manafort were not as serious as the pandemonium outside the courtroom might suggest.

“President Donald Trump was correct. There is no evidence the Trump campaign or Mr. Manafort colluded with the Russia government,” Downing said, speaking to a wall of cameras and microphones awaiting his remarks. He called the allegations indictment against Manafort “ridiculous” and said some were based on a “novel” interpretation of the law.

His statement did not appear to address Monday’s other bombshell revelation, in the form of court documents unsealed that morning alleging that a Trump campaign adviser had contacts with Kremlin-tied figures and then lied to the FBI about it. The new revelation did not come up as the pack of reporters followed Downing down the street grilling him with questions. One particularly loud heckler yelled repeatedly about John Podesta, while other reporters asked if the White House should be worried about Manafort might say.

“The White House has no concerns about Mr. Manafort and the Trump campaign,” Downing said.

At one point, a cameraman fell to the ground amid the horde of reporters, leaving his iPhone as the ground has he got up to continue to the chase.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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