Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort sought to influence the content of an ostensibly independent report, produced by a major U.S. law firm, about the prosecution and imprisonment of the political rival of Manafort’s Ukrainian client, prosecutors alleged in a new court filing Monday.
Manafort sought to have a say in which experts were tapped for the report, the filing said, and the firm was asked to send him a “Russian version” of the report before it was officially released. It doesn’t not appear that Manafort was fully successfully in swaying the report in the direction he was seeking: he emailed the lead attorney with concerns that it was too hard on Ukraine and wanted ideas from the attorney on how to address this “potential catastrophe,” according to the filing.
The court document is a response to Manafort’s efforts to exclude certain exhibits — including some related to the report, produced by the well regarded law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom – from his upcoming trial in D.C.
Prosecutors allege that Manafort’s hiring of the law firm in 2012 to produce the report, on behalf of the Ukraine Ministry of Justice, was part of his scheme to lobby for Ukraine’s pro-Russian Party of Regions in the U.S, as was the “extensive media roll-out plan” he helped prepare for the report’s release.
Manafort is being charged with failing to register that lobbying under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and has pleaded not guilty to that and special counsel Robert Mueller’s other charges.
It’s not clear if the “lead law firm lawyer” noted in the court filing refers to former Skadden attorney Greg Craig, who has been described in reporting as having overseen the report’s production and left the firm without explanation this spring, as the Mueller-related scrutiny of the report was heating up. CNN reported last month that Craig, a former Obama White House counsel, is part of a FARA inquiry referred by Mueller last spring to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
Another former Skadden attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty in February to misleading federal investigators, has been described as being deeply involved in the report and served as a liaison to Manafort deputy Rick Gates. Van der Zwaan admitted, in court documents related to his plea, to providing an advance copy of the report to the PR firm hired by Manafort to manage its roll-out, and also to putting together talking points for Gates to be used in the roll out.
A spokesperson for Skadden did not respond to TPM’s inquiry as to who the “lead law firm lawyer” referred to nor to TPM’s other questions about to the court filing.
Read the fulling filing below: