A legal defense fund has been set up for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort by his “long time friends,” according to the fund’s website.
The Paul Manafort Defense Fund was established “to assist Paul and his family in meeting the tremendous legal costs resulting from the proceedings commenced against him by the Office of Special Counsel following the historic 2016 Presidential Election.”
NPR was first to report the fund’s existence on Wednesday.
Manafort is facing charges in Washington, D.C. and Virginia that include money laundering, failure to disclose foreign lobbying, tax fraud and bank fraud. He’s pleaded not guilty.
It is not clear who is behind the fund. A TPM inquiry sent to a generic email on the website about the fund’s backers and its plans for public disclosure of contributions went unanswered.
“The Trust will maintain strict confidentiality of the identity and information of those who choose to contribute,” the website said. Any leftovers from the contributions will go the ACLU and The Brain Trauma Fund, per the website.
Under its media page, the fund lists a number of news stories about the Manafort case, many of them hyperbolic and conspiratorial in tone, and also includes a Sean Hannity clip bashing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Manafort has remained under house arrest since turning himself in to the FBI last October when the indictment against him was unsealed. His lawyers have said in court proceedings that his home confinement has affected his ability to make money to pay for his legal defense. At a hearing last month, his attorney also revealed that Manafort had “millions” of dollars locked down due to forfeiture allegations.
A number of other legal defense funds have sprouted up for those involved in the various investigations into Russian election meddling, which is also being probed by Congress. A fund for White House aides caught up in the investigation was launched earlier this year, while a fund for Trump associate Michael Caputo is also now offering to cover the legal fees of other Trump associates.
Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, before pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents about Russian contacts during the presidential transition, set up a legal defense fund, as did Manafort’s longtime business partner Rick Gates, who also reached a plea deal with Mueller.
The fund set up for Gates caused a legal headache for his attorneys when he was accused of violating a gag order imposed in the case against him and Manafort by appearing in a pre-filmed video that aired at a fundraiser for the legal defense fund.