The federal judge overseeing the financial crimes case against former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on Wednesday issued a gag order preventing everyone involved or potentially involved from talking to the press.
“The parties, any potential witnesses, and counsel for the parties and the witnesses, are hereby ORDERED to refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in her order.
Jackson said it was intended to ensure the defendants’ right to a fair trial and that selected jurors are not “tainted by pretrial publicity.”
As part of his broader probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and possible collusion by Americans, Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained a grand jury indictment against Manafort and Gates for alleged money laundering, tax evasion and failing to disclose lobbying activities for foreign politicians.
At a hearing last Thursday, Jackson clearly signaled her disapproval of grandstanding by the attorneys in the case, warning them against making their arguments “on the courthouse steps” and giving them until Wednesday to file motions opposing the gag order. No parties involved in the case did so.
Even before the order was issued, Jackson’s initial warning seemed to deter attorneys from speaking out. Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, told reporters that the case was “ridiculous” after his client’s initial appearance in front of a magistrate judge on Monday. After the Thursday hearing, he and Manafort departed in silence.