Special counsel Robert Mueller — in a court filing Thursday that both highlighted and disputed some of the media coverage his case against former Trump campign chairman Paul Manafort has attracted — requested that jurors in the trial scheduled next month in Virginia fill out written jury questionnaires to ensure “that this case is tried before an impartial jury.”
“The nature and scope of the publicity surrounding this matter raises a substantial danger that potential jurors may already have formed opinions about the defendant’s guilt or innocence, may have developed views about the Special Counsel’s investigation, or may otherwise be affected in their ability to consider the case impartially,” Mueller told the court.
His filing cited media reports that were critical of Mueller as well as those critical of Manafort.
A footnote disputed reports that the FBI’s July 2017 raid on Manafort’s home in Virginia was a no-knock search.
The footnote also highlighted a remark made by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson at Manafort’s pretrial detention hearing in a separate case in Washington last week, in which she scolded journalists for reporting that an unredacted court document published mistakenly to the court docket by a court employee was a purposeful leak by Mueller.
“The reporting, at times inaccurately, comments on the nature of the evidence collected in the case or activities of the parties,” Mueller said in Thursday’s filing.
Mueller’s proposed questionnaire asks many standard questions about a potential juror’s background, as well as questions tailored to the allegations in the case, including questions about a potential juror’s ties to Ukraine.
Manafort has been charged in Virginia with bank fraud, tax fraud and failure to report foreign bank accounts. He’s also facing charges in D.C. pertaining to alleged money laundering and failure to disclose lobbying work he did on behalf Ukraine. He’s pleaded not guilty in both cases.