Manafort Filing Claims Mueller ‘Damaged’ His Right to Fair Trial

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort said in a court filing Friday night that special counsel Robert Mueller’s motion to revise or revoke his pretrial release for alleged witness tampering might have “irreparably damaged” his right to an impartial jury.

The 9-page filing from his attorney Kevin Downing came in response to a motion from prosecutor Andrew Weissmann on Monday that accused Manafort of witness tampering, and asked the court to consider revoking his bail and jailing him until trial.

Downing said the motion drew widespread and negative media coverage.

“Mr. Manafort’s Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury in this district may have been irreparably damaged by the Special Counsel’s latest, very public and very specious, filing of this motion,” the filing says.

Paul Manafort accompanied by his lawyer Kevin Downing, right, arrives at U.S. Federal Court, in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017.( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Manafort also flatly denied that he attempted to tamper with potential witnesses.

“Mr. Manafort asked no one to provide a false affidavit or false testimony at trial, or perjure themselves, and he has not given—nor offered to give—any potential witness anything in exchange for false testimony,” the filing says.

The filing came the same day Mueller brought a superseding indictment against Manafort, along with his Russian business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, for obstruction of justice.

The two charges are directly related to the alleged witness tampering.

According to the new indictment, Manafort tried to influence two potential witnesses identified as Persons D1 and D2 who were intermediaries for the Hapsburg Group, a collective of former senior European politicians paid by Manafort to lobby on behalf of Ukraine in the United States.

The group meanwhile had portrayed itself as independent.

Manafort, however, appeared undeterred by the new charges in his Friday night filing, calling the evidence against him thin.

“In his motion, the Special Counsel contrives dubious allegations of witness tampering,” the filing says. “From a scant record, the Special Counsel conjures a sinister plot to ‘corruptly persuade’ two of Mr. Manafort’s former business associates to perjure themselves at the upcoming trial in September.”

According to Downing, the proof against his client consists of “an 84-second phone call and a few text messages” following the first superseding indictment Mueller brought against Manafort in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 23.

“Closer scrutiny of this ‘evidence’ reveals that the Special Counsel’s allegations are without merit because Mr. Manafort’s limited communications cannot be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness,” the brief says.

Manafort dismisses the communications as innocuous and said the special counsel failed to describe their substance.

One of the messages Manafort sent to Person D1 referring to the Hapsburg group said: “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”

Manafort contends the communications at issue are consistent with his public assertion that his lobbying work was focused in Europe, not the United States.

“Reading this document in conjunction with the Special Counsel’s June 2012 exhibit outlining the group’s mission statement, clearly demonstrates the European focus of the group, identifies Europeans as the group’s members, and shows that the conferences that were planned were to occur in Europe,” the brief says.

Additionally, Manafort says he could not have tampered with witnesses, because he had no way of knowing who the special counsel might call to testify.

Manafort is due in court on Friday June 15 for a hearing on the special counsel’s motion to revoke his pretrial release.

He is facing separate indictments in Washington, D.C. and Virginia relating to his lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine. The charges against him include conspiracy, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, making false statements and bank and tax fraud.

 

 

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