Manafort Attorneys Ask Trial Court to Seal Portion of Transcript

WASHINGTON (CN) – Attorneys for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort on Wednesday asked a federal judge to seal a portion of the transcript in his bank and tax fraud trial, as Washington grapples with the fallout of Manafort’s conviction and the guilty plea of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

In a three-page filing on Wednesday, Manafort’s defense attorneys asked U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to seal a portion of a sidebar conference that took place during Manafort’s trial on Aug. 7 because it refers “to an ongoing federal investigation.”

The request covers a similar portion of the transcript that Ellis sealed at the government’s request on Aug. 9. A jury on Tuesday found Manafort guilty of eight of the 18 counts against him, including bank fraud, failing to register foreign bank accounts and falsifying tax returns.

Meanwhile, the White House has continued to downplay the significance of Manafort’s conviction and Cohen’s guilty plea, which happened within minutes of one another on Tuesday afternoon.

Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of his own in a New York courtroom, including one count of causing an unlawful corporate contribution and one count of excessive campaign contribution.

The campaign finance violations involved two payments to cover up affairs President Donald Trump had with Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels. The criminal information against Cohen says he made the payments so the women “did not publicize damaging allegations before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election.”

Cohen’s attorneys have said Trump directed Cohen to make the payments.

But the White House has noted none of the charges against Manafort were related to the Trump campaign, while similarly questioning the importance of the Cohen plea.

“I can tell you, as the president has stated on numerous occasions, he did nothing wrong,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday. “There are no charges against him in this and just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal doesn’t mean that that implicates the president on anything.”

In an interview with Fox host Ainsley Earhardt that will air Thursday on “Fox & Friends,” Trump defended himself against the Cohen plea, saying the payments “weren’t taken out of campaign finance.”

“That’s a big thing, that’s a much bigger thing, did they come out of the campaign?” Trump said in the interview, according to an excerpt posted by Fox News. “They didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me and I tweeted about it.”

Trump also said knew about the payments “later on.”

However, the criminal information filed against Cohen does not allege the payments came from Trump’s campaign, but rather accuses Cohen of helping a company make excessive and unlawful contributions to help influence an election, which is a crime.

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