DC Circuit Keeps Manafort Behind Bars for Trial

WASHINGTON (CN) – Across the Potomac River from the start of Paul Manafort’s trial, the D.C. Circuit refused Tuesday morning to let the former campaign chief for President Donald Trump out of jail.

Manafort had gone to the federal appeals court after U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson revoked his pretrial release in June following new allegations of witness tampering.

In a superseding indictment, prosecutors explained that a pair of witnesses identified as Persons D1 and D2 reported that Manafort contacted them in what they perceived was an attempt to “suborn perjury.”

The potential witnesses are said to have acted as intermediaries between Manafort and a collective of several former senior European politicians named in the indictment as the Hapsburg Group.

Manafort’s communications with the witnesses suggest he wanted to secure false testimony about the nature of the Hapsburg Group’s lobbying activities.

According to the ruling Tuesday, Persons D1 and D2 both told a federal agent that the Hapsburg Group lobbied in the United States. Manafort meanwhile has insisted such work occurred in the EU.

While Jackson found that the superseding charges automatically implied probable cause, Manafort argued that the judge should have weighed the strength of the evidence.

Though a three-judge panel rejected the appeal Tuesday, they did note that the order for Manafort not to contact potential witnesses or victims was ambiguous. Ultimately, however, that error did not undermine Jackson’s conclusion.

“Given the District Court’s consideration of all the information before it and its other subsidiary findings, we are not ‘left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed,'” U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins wrote for the panel.

The ruling Tuesday was handed down as Manafort faces jury selection in Alexandria, Virginia, for the first of what is to be two trials for Manafort.

It was U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in the Eastern District of Virginia who issued the no-contact order that Manafort was found in Washington to have violated.

But Manafort argued that Jackson should not have considered Ellis’ no-contact order when weighing whether to revoke his pretrial release.

The panel concluded Tuesday meanwhile that there was no clear error in Jackson’s determination that no conditions would ensure that Manafort would not commit any further crimes while out on bond.

After the tax-evasion and fraud trial of Manafort concludes in Alexandria, Virginia, the 69-year-old faces a second trial in Washington on charges of money laundering.

Jackson on Tuesday gave Manafort until Aug. 20 to file a joint presentencing statement in the case after prosecutors lodged an objection to his request earlier this morning.

In his Monday request for a four-week extension, Manafort’s defense pointed to “time-consuming trial preparation” and the need to confer with the special counsel’s office concerning the contents of the statement.

But prosecutor Andrew Weissmann emphasized in the government’s response that Manafort has had five months to prepare for the impending August 1 deadline.

Weissmann said it was Manafort who opted for two separate trials, and that it has been clear since March that the Virginia trial would start in July.

Other than Manafort’s efforts to get an extension, Weissmann added, the defendant has made no effort to consult with the government.

“Yet, the government spent the last two weeks making disclosures to Manafort of all of the different components required by the joint pretrial statement,” the 4-page response says.

Weissmann also noted that Manafort is in possession of the government’s proposed joint statement, jury instructions, expert witness and exhibits lists and stipulations — what Weissmann dubbed “a roadmap” of the government’s case.

“Not once did Manafort respond, in any way, to any of the government’s disclosures,” the response says. “Similarly, the defense produced no reciprocal materials to the government.”

Weissman said Manafort waited until after the government turned over all these materials, and on the eve of trial in Virginia, to indicate he would seek an extension.

“Waiting until the Monday afternoon before such a substantial submission to file the present motion serves to divert unfairly the government’s resources away from the Eastern District of Virginia matter, with no showing whatsoever by the defense to justify its motion,” the response says.

Weissmann said Manafort’s request for an extension is “a harbinger” of plans to delay the September trial in Washington, D.C. — something the government would oppose.

“As a matter of professional courtesy,” Weissmann said, the government does not object to a one-week extension. He argued that no additional time is warranted.

Manafort is represented by Richard Westling with the firm Epstein Becker & Green, as well as Washington attorneys Kevin Downing, Thomas Zehnle and Frank Cihlar.

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