Manafort Judge Puts Kibosh On Talk Of Affairs At Next Trial

TPM Illustration. Photos by Getty Images/ Mandel Ngan/ AFP Contributor

A couple weeks from the start of Paul Manafort’s Washington, D.C. trial, the judge presiding over the case, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, made clear in a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday that neither the prosecution nor the defense will be able to mention illicit affairs or attempt to broadly characterize whether Manafort’s work in Ukraine was good or bad.

Jackson also said she would allow lawyers to use the term oligarch, a word the judge in Virginia banned in that trial, but ordered the lawyers to agree on a definition of the term if they do decide to use the word.

In ordering the lawyers to avoid any mentions of affairs, Jackson targeted the defense team’s attempts to hurt the credibility of the government’s star witness in the Virginia case, former Manafort deputy Rick Gates. In that trial, when the defense asked Gates about his “secret life,” he brought up an affair, prompting the defense to later ask him if he had several affairs.

“I do not think this evidence is relevant to his credibility,” Jackson said, telling lawyers on both sides not to ask about “affairs or infidelity” and to caution witnesses that they should not bring this up on their own.

Downing argued that he only asked about Gates’ affairs at the Virginia trial because he “started lying about it.”

Jackson told Downing that his questions about Gates’ credibility should stick to any alleged financial misdeeds, not his personal life, and that if the defense believes Gates tells a lie, to approach the bench to discuss how to move forward.

Downing also noted that he only asked about Gates’ “secret life” in the Virginia trial to show that Gates was living beyond his means. To this argument, Jackson said that both sides should not “belabor” the expensive items anyone was purchasing.

“I think we can turn down the volume on that,” she said.

On the issue of characterizing the work Manafort carried out in Ukraine, Jackson told the lawyers on both sides to keep from making broad characterizations, referencing the defense’s argument in the Virginia trial that Manafort’s work in Ukraine promoted Western democracy. She said there will be no discussion of “which is the good guy and which is the bad guy” when it comes to Ukrainian political parties or politicians.

Jackson also ruled Tuesday on which arguments and evidence will be permitted to be used at trial.

She said she would approve a motion from the defense to exclude any mention that the special counsel investigation into potential Trump campaign collusion is still ongoing and said she would only allow prosecutors to mention Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign when discussing statements he made about his work in Ukraine while he was still working for Trump.

Jackson also granted motions from Manafort’s attorneys to bar any mention of the Virginia trial or the fact that Manafort is currently in custody.

The government filed a motion to bar the defense team from arguing that the special counsel selectively prosecuted Manafort due to his ties to Trump. Jackson said she is “inclined to grant this motion” but said she would issue a “clear” ruling on the matter later.

Jackson said she would wait to issue rulings on several additional motions, including a defense motion to bar any testimony or evidence from lawyers who advised Manafort on whether he had to register as a foreign lobbyist. She will also issue orders later on the defense’s motion to exclude any mention that the IRS did not audit Manafort or that the government did not bring any kind of civil action against Manafort for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, as well as a government motion to include evidence that Manafort’s companies did not report their foreign bank accounts.

She said she would be denying Manafrot’s motion for a change of venue to Roanoke, Virginia.

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