Manafort Vies to Block Media Records Demand

WASHINGTON (CN) – Indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort asked a federal court Monday evening to keep documents from one of his criminal cases kept off limits to a media coalition.

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

In a 26-page filing, Manafort said his right to a fair trial would be in jeopardy if The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, CNN and Politico succeed in their motion to unseal confidential records in the case.

“Indeed, some of the materials sought by the Media Coalition have been denied to Mr. Manafort, despite his efforts to obtain them for his defense,” the motion says. “Other materials contain sensitive information relating to Mr. Manafort’s finances, or personal information about Mr. Manafort’s former co-defendant and business associate.”

The news organizations brought their request on April 25, eyeing materials in all seven criminal cases opened by special counsel Robert Mueller. In addition to search warrants, applications and their supporting affidavits in Manafort’s case, the coalition seeks information about search warrants filed in the criminal case against Manafort in Virginia, plus a sealed transcript from a hearing in Washington, D.C., concerning his conditions of release.

Manafort’s June 4 response, submitted by his attorney Kevin Downing, argues that the affidavits should be kept under seal since the court has withheld those from Manafort himself. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Manafort’s request to compel their production on May 29, after reviewing the affidavits in her chambers.

“If Mr. Manafort’s constitutional right to mount a defense is insufficient to warrant disclosure of these documents in the criminal prosecution that has been brought against him, then the press’s purported common-law right to have the information is surely insufficient as well,” Manafort’s response Monday says.

Manafort also pointed to the court order preventing him from making any public comments on the widely publicized case, even to proclaim his innocence.

“If the court continues to read the order in that capacious manner, public access to the requested search-warrant materials would leave Mr. Manafort defenseless against a reinvigorated onslaught of damaging and prejudicial press stories,” the filing says.

Manafort argues that his interest in a fair trial outweighs the presumption of public access the media organizations are seeking under the First Amendment.

His brief points to precedent in three federal appeals courts, which held that no First Amendment right to search warrant materials exists in ongoing criminal investigations.

Even with redactions, Manafort also argued, disclosing the search warrant materials in his case prior to trial would hamper his Sixth Amendment rights.

“Sealing the search-warrant materials safeguards Mr. Manafort’s fair-trial rights by preventing negative press coverage that is almost certain to prejudice the prospective jury pool,” the brief says.

Unsealing redacted search warrant materials would “undoubtedly spawn” additional negative coverage of the case, and could harm the reputation of unindicted third parties, Manafort argued

Less than an hour after Manafort filed this response, prosecutors accused him Monday night of using an encrypted messaging app to tamper with a potential witnesses in his case. They have asked the court to modify or revoke his pretrial release, which could mean he would await his pending trials in Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia, in jail.

Manafort has until Friday to respond to these allegations, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Tuesday morning. A hearing on the matter will be held on June 15 at 10 a.m., and Jackson said those in court should include the federal agent who signed the declaration supporting the government’s motion, and any other potential witnesses.

%d bloggers like this: