Democrats Try to Serve Manafort Racketeering Suit in Prison

(CN) – While awaiting trial inside a federal prison in Alexandria, Virginia, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort may receive a special delivery from the Democrats: a long-pending federal lawsuit.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort arrives at federal court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Nearly three months have passed since the Democratic National Committee accused Russia, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign of acting as a “racketeering enterprise,” implicating 15 people and entities.

“The conspiracy constituted an act of previously unimaginable treachery: the campaign of the presidential nominee of a major party in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency,” the April 20 lawsuit states.

At the time, Manafort already had been charged with conspiracy, but his bail would not be revoked for another two months amid evidence of witness tampering.

The Democrats spotted an opportunity in Manafort’s misfortune: the chance to effect service behind bars and through his attorney.

“Manafort can likely receive mail while he is incarcerated, and his criminal defense attorneys will certainly be able to speak with Manafort and give him a copy of the complaint while they are preparing for Manafort’s criminal trial,” the party’s attorney Joseph Sellers wrote in a 7-page motion on Monday. “Thus, this double mailing is reasonably likely to put Manafort on notice of the impending litigation.”

Sellers did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

Unable to serve a sprawling array of U.S. and Russian adversaries, the Democrats’ lawsuit has stagnated even as special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe accelerates by the day.

Mueller has charged 36 people and entities, including several defendants in the racketeering suit.

Manafort’s ex-deputy Rick Gates and Trump’s former foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos are among the five people who have pleaded guilty.

One of the defendants in the Democrats’ suit was Guccifer 2.0, described in the complaint as a Russian military intelligence officer. Mueller unmasked that account on Friday as 12 Russian military officers working in tandem.

Hours before the Democrats moved to serve Manafort in prison, Mueller charged another accused co-conspirator: Mariia Butina, a Russian gun activist linked to the National Rifle Association.

Butina is not yet named in the Democratic Party’s complaint.

With Manafort’s trial scheduled to begin July 25, a federal judge in Virginia postponed a hearing that had been set for Tuesday for another week, delaying jury selection. The schedule change precipitated rumors of plea negotiations.

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