Mueller Says Sidebar Manafort Trial Convo Contained Evidence In ‘Ongoing’ Probe

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Update August 10 at 12:13 p.m.: Judge T.S. Ellis ruled late Thursday that the portion of the bench conference related to Gates’ interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team would remain under seal.

Original story: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors requested Thursday that part of a conversation they had with Judge T.S. Ellis III and defense lawyers for Paul Manafort two days earlier be kept private, because it revealed “substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation.”

That private “sidebar” conversation came after Manafort’s attorneys asked Rick Gates about his discussions with Mueller’s team — an indication that those conversations between Gates and Mueller’s prosecutors could have revealed information relevant to Mueller’s probe of Russian election interference.

The Thursday filing specified “portions of the sidebar conference transcript” that identified “evidence” pertaining to the probe, or revealed “details” about the evidence.

“Disclosing the identified transcript portions would reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” prosecutors said. “The government’s interest in protecting the confidentiality of its ongoing investigations is compelling and justifies sealing the limited portion of the sidebar conference at issue here. In addition, sealing will minimize any risk of prejudice from the disclosure of new information relating to that ongoing investigation.”

When Gates pled guilty to lying to federal agents and conspiracy against the United States in February, he pledged to cooperate with Mueller’s team. He affirmed that cooperation Tuesday when asked about it.

The sidebar conversation — which the court’s stenographer could hear, but which Gates, the jury and reporters in the room could not — came after Manafort attorney Kevin Downing asked Gates if he’d spoken to the special counsel’s team about his time at the Trump campaign. 

Gates answered affirmatively. When Downing went to ask another question, the prosecution objected.

Both sides’ lawyers then had the five-minute sidebar conversation with Ellis. Afterward, Ellis announced a 30 minute recess. He never indicated what the conversation was about.

Read prosecutors’ filing below:

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