Manafort Launches Last-Minute Scramble In Weeks Before Virginia Trial

TPM Illustration. Photo by Getty Images/ The Washington Post

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a series of court motions late Friday seeking to delay and move his trial in Virginia, which is slated to begin in Alexandria later this month. He also reiterated his concern about alleged leaks to the media from the FBI and Justice Department, despite the judge in the Virginia case previously showing skepticism that such allegations would be addressed in the lead-up to the trial.

“Mr. Manafort has been subject to negative press since the leaking of the Special Counsel’s investigation more than a year ago; however, the recent bail revocation and his subsequent detention has exacerbated the situation,” one of Manafort’s court filings said. “Time is needed to allow passions to cool and to permit the seating of an impartial jury.”

Manafort is facing charges that include bank fraud and tax fraud in Virginia, in a case that was brought in addition to the charges of money laundering and failure to disclose foreign lobbying brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller in Washington, D.C. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Ironically it was Manafort who resisted the special counsel’s offer to consolidate the Virginia charges, brought in February, into the case in D.C., which was initially brought by Mueller last October. There was speculation that Virginia would offer Manafort a more favorable jury pool than D.C., but that keeping the trials separate also came at a risk, given the pro-prosecution bent of the Virginia district.

The D.C. case is scheduled to begin in September.

A Request to Delay the Virginia Case

It was well known, when Manafort first opted to let the case proceed in Virginia, that the Eastern District of Virginia has a reputation of moving quickly in case proceedings, earning it the nickname “rocket docket.”

Now Manafort is claiming he needs more time to prepare, pointing both to the decision by the judge in the D.C. case to put him jail while he awaits trial due to allegations of witness tampering, as well as the special counsel’s discovery production schedule.

According to Manafort, he received 50,000 pages of documents from Mueller only last Friday.

He requested that U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis delay the Virginia case until after his case in D.C. wraps up.

Manafort Offers More Details About Leak Allegations

At a hearing on June 29, Ellis said he wasn’t ready to hold a hearing on Manafort’s allegations of Justice Department leaks to the media, which Manafort requested. The judge also said he would not dismiss the case on the basis of the allegations, but that Manafort could seek a venue change (more on that later).

At that hearing, however, the special counsel turned over to Manafort notes drafted by the FBI on a meeting FBI agents and DOJ officials had with AP reporters in April 2017. The notes were referenced in questioning during the June hearing with an FBI agent who was present in the meeting and was later involved in a search of Manafort’s storage. (The appropriateness of that search was one of the topics of the hearing).

Manafort, on Friday, included those lightly-redacted notes in a court filing requesting that Ellis order the government to “turn over all communications and notes of the meeting as well as any internal complaints filed with respect to the same.”

Manafort Wants to Move The Trial To Roanoke

In addition to his request that his Virginia trial be delayed, Manafort on Friday requested that it be moved to Roanoke, an area of the state with a “more balanced” political split than Alexandria between Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters, Manafort said.

“It is not a stretch to expect that voters who supported Secretary Clinton would be predisposed against Mr. Manafort or that voters who supported President Trump would be less inclined toward the Special Counsel,” the filing said.

Should Mueller Get To Mention Manafort’s Trump Ties?

Manafort had requested last month that mention of Manafort’s work on the Trump campaign — which mostly came after the alleged activity giving rise to the charges — be excluded from the trial. On Friday, Mueller had a chance to respond in court filings.

The special counsel said that he specifically wanted to include in the case allegations that Manafort received $16 million in loans — using “false and fraudulent representations,” according to Mueller — from a bank whose executive was seeking to work for the Trump administration.

The banker, who is referred to as “senior executive at Lender D” in the Mueller filing, is Steve Calk, who served on the Trump’s campaign economic advisory team and reportedly desired to be Trump’s Army Secretary.

 

 

 

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