Paul Manafort: I Did Not Violate Gag Order By Weighing In On Op-Ed About Me

Paul Manafort walks from Federal District Court in Washington, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, and Manafort's business associate Rick Gates pleaded not guilty to felony charges of conspiracy against the United States and other counts. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP

Paul Manafort’s attorney on Thursday pushed back on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s claim that Manafort had violated a judge’s gag order by assisting in an op-ed being written about him for a Ukrainian newspaper.

“The Special Counsel’s standard would lead to the constitutionally untenable conclusion that a defendant is not even allowed to maintain his or her innocence when such an order is entered because, by doing so, that statement might influence the public’s opinion,” the attorney, Kevin Downing, said in court filings.

Downing said that “nothing” in the op-ed — which was not published in the outlet it was intended for until after it was obtained by TPM earlier this week — “would ‘pose a substantial material likelihood of prejudice to this case,'” quoting from the court’s order barring parties from discussing the case with the media.

Earlier this week, Mueller informed the court that it was pulling out of a bail agreement it had come to with Manafort’s attorneys because Manafort was “ghostwriting” an op-ed with a colleague who had been “assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.”

It was reported that the colleague was Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime partner in Manafort’s Eastern European endeavors, and that Kiliminik had received a draft op-ed that a Oleg Voloshyn, a former spokesman for Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs, had written to be published in the Kyviv Post.

Voloshyn told Bloomberg that Manafort asked him to “add that the Yanukovych government also worked actively with the U.S. on nuclear disarmament and with NATO.”

Manafort’s attorney said Thursday that this collaboration was merely Manafort trying to “ensure” the “accuracy” of the op-ed.

“There was no violation of this Court’s Order, and the Office of Special Counsel should be held to its word with respect to the agreed-upon bail package,” he said.

Read the full filing below: