DC Circuit Urged to Keep Manafort Behind Bars

WASHINGTON (CN) – Prosecutors urged the D.C. Circuit Thursday to uphold an order that keeps ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort jailed ahead of trial.

Manafort appealed the order revoking his bond on June 25, just over two weeks after special counsel Robert Mueller brought a superseding indictment charging Manafort with obstruction of justice for trying to influence the testimony of two potential witnesses – identified only as Persons D1 and D2.

Mueller’s team describes the witnesses as intermediaries for the Hapsburg Group, a collective of several former senior European politicians who lobbied on behalf of Ukraine in the United States and were paid by Manafort and his right-hand man, Russian-born Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the grand jury also indicted on obstruction of justice.

In a July 5 appeal brief, defense attorney Kevin Downing said that the June 15 detention against Manafort imperils his ability to prepare for two upcoming criminal trials.

Downing said Manafort “is now housed in solitary confinement because the facility cannot otherwise guarantee his safety.” For 23 hours per day, minus attorney visits, Manafort is locked in his cell.

Assistant special counsel Scott Meisler meanwhile wasted little time to counter that claim.

“The district court has taken steps to minimize the impact on Manafort’s ability to prepare for his upcoming trials; the government has offered to do the same; and Manafort has not sought any relief from the district court or the government, including the Bureau of Prisons, with respect to any confinement conditions,” the reply filed on July 5 says.

Meisler said Manafort wrongly contends that Jackson partially based her decision to revoke his bond on a no-contact order from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis II in Alexandria, Virginia, which prohibits him from contacting witnesses or victims in the special counsel’s investigation.

Downing had argued that Manafort in fact did not violate Ellis’ order, which he asserted applied only to the Virginia case, not to the Washington, D.C., case. But Meisler noted that Jackson was clear she did not base her decision on his violation of another court’s order.

“Manafort identifies no authority that would bar a judge from considering compliance with another court’s order for that purpose,” the reply says.

Jackson had said she was troubled by the number of contacts while Manafort was already out on bond and subject to Ellis’ order.

Meisler also said Manafort is mistaken about the Virginia no-contact order, which he says does encompass Manafort’s contacts with Person D1 and D2.

“Persons D1 and D2 are witnesses in the single ‘investigation’ that, for venue reasons, gave rise to two ‘prosecution[s]’ in neighboring districts,” the reply says.

Manafort had contested the nature of his contacts with those individuals during the June 15 bond hearing, describing them as harmless. On Thursday he said that Jackson should have weighed the evidence against him, which he called “weak.”

“That legal error alone warrants reversal,” the brief says.

During the June 15 hearing, however, Jackson said the grand jury’s finding of probable cause, which resulted in the superseding indictment for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, meant she did not need to get into the merits since the indictment itself means probable cause already exists.

Jackson said she also weighed whether Manafort would obey any court order given his pattern of taking matters into his own hands. In her estimation, no order would be clear enough.

Meisler said Thursday that Manafort had failed to show that Jackson clearly erred.

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