(CN) – President Trump’s embattled ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort is seeking a new venue for his upcoming trial in Alexandria, Virginia.
In a motion filed late Friday afternoon, Manafort said intense media coverage of his prosecution has imperiled his fair trial rights there given his role in the president’s campaign.
“As a result, for many Americans, Mr. Manafort’s legal issues and the attendant daily media coverage have become theatre in the continuing controversy surrounding President Trump and his election,” the 10-page motion says. “This controversy continues to engender strong partisans on both sides of every issue. As a result, it is difficult, if not impossible, to divorce the issues in this case from the political views of potential jurors.”
Manafort has asked the court to transfer to the case to Roanoke, Virginia, far from the intense media scrutiny in the Washington metropolitan area.
Manafort's attorney Jay Nanavati with Kostelanetz & Fink pointed to the high profile of special counsel Robert Mueller himself, saying the media has portrayed the Russia probe "as a showdown" between Mueller and the president.
Nanavati also claims reporting on the recent indictment of Manafort's right-hand man, Russian-born Konstantin Kilimnik, was "sensationalized and untethered from the facts in the case," and focused on his alleged connection to Russian intelligence.
A grand jury in Washington brought a superseding indictment against Manafort and Kilimnik in Washington on June 8 for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice for their attempts to sway the testimony of two potential witnesses in the case.
On Friday Nanavati said Kilimnik was merely trying "to make contact with a former associate," but U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said the indictment implied probable cause of the alleged witness tampering.
As a result, she revoked Manafort's pre-trial release and sent him to jail ahead of trial.
That move, Nanavati said Friday, "unleashed a spate of intensely negative news coverage suggesting that Mr. Manafort violated the law."
"Indeed," the motion continues, "even the President's response on Twitter observed that Mr. Manafort receive a 'tough sentence,' incorrectly suggesting that Mr. Manafort had been sentenced for committing a crime."
Nanavati said a change of venue is warranted since the media coverage has been most intense and negative in and around Washington, D.C., including in the Eastern District of Virginia where the first of Manafort's two criminal trials is slated to kick off July 25.
Nanavati noted that Google searches about Russian collusion return 2.9 million results, while a search for articles about his client returns more than 1.3 million results.
"Reviewing these articles, one is hard pressed to find any that are not unfavorable to Mr. Manafort," the motion says.
In a separate brief also filed late Friday, Manafort again pointed to leaks and "improper disclosures" of confidential and classified material as justification for moving the trial.
Earlier on Friday, Manafort asked for a court order Friday waiving his right to appear in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal court except for his upcoming trial and any potential sentencing.
"Mr. Manafort waives his right to appear because of the great time and distance involved in having the U.S. Marshals Service transport him to court from the Northern Neck Regional Jail," the 3-page motion says.