Federal Judge Proposes May 7 Trial Date for Manafort

(CN) — A federal judge on Friday proposed a May 7 trial date for President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she would hear arguments about that date at a hearing scheduled for Nov. 6.

“The parties should be advised that the Court is not inclined to establish a schedule that is subject to periodic continuances; any trial date that is set in this case will be a firm trial date,” the judge said in her two-page order.

The judge’s decision came hours after Special Counsel Robert Mueller informed Berman Jackson that his prosecutors will need three weeks at trial to present their case against the ex-Trump campaign officials.

Responding to request for a time estimate from the judge, Mueller prosecutor Kyle Freeny wrote the government will likely need 15 trial days to present evidence supporting a 12-count indictment unsealed Monday alleging violations of federal money laundering, banking and foreign lobbying laws.

Manafort, who served for five months as President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, and his former deputy Gates have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Both men were placed on house arrest and released on multimillion-dollar bonds.

Manafort has asked a judge to ease the terms of his pretrial confinement, calling Mueller’s case “embellished,” in court papers filed earlier this week.

In a filing of its own on Friday, Manafort’s defense team outlined how it plans to proceed in the near-term.

“At this time, the defense anticipates that pretrial motions will be filed concerning the legal basis for and sufficiency of the charges, the suppression of evidence improperly obtained by search warrant, subpoena or otherwise (including the application of exceptions to common law privileges), as well as motions in limine based on discovery to be provided by the Government in preparation for trial,” Attorney Kevin Downing wrote.

The charges against Manafort and Gates were the first criminal charges stemming from Mueller’s six-month probe of potential ties between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign.

Another campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential election and is cooperating with Mueller’s investigators. Papadopoulos’ pleas was revealed Monday, shortly after Manafort turned himself in to the FBI.

Mueller’s charges against Manafort, 68, and Gates, 45, relate to their financial dealings while lobbying for pro-Russia political interests in Ukraine as far back as 2012.

On Friday, a Ukrainian opposition politician who helped uncover off-the-books payments allegedly made to Manafort told the Associated Press he provided information on the matter to the FBI, but never received a follow-up.

Serhiy Leshchenko also told AP that his attempts to inform Ukrainian officials about the payments ran into roadblocks.

Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist, said that in February he “shared some documents” with the FBI about Manafort receiving a $750,000 payment via Kyrgyzstan.

“Since that moment I have no feedback,” he said.

Leshchenko also claimed letters he sent Ukraine’s prosecutor-general about the payments were received only months later.

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