WASHINGTON (CN) — A prosecutor with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said the team does not plan to introduce any evidence at trial in September related to the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russian effort to disrupt the 2016 election.
But Andrew Weissman, an attorney with Mueller’s team, said Manafort’s role as President Donald Trump’s campaign chair does relate to the false-statement charges he faces.
The grand jury indictment charges Manafort with conspiracy, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, making false statements on Foreign Agent Registration Act forms and obstruction of justice in relation to lobbying work he did on behalf of the pro-Russia Party of Regions in Ukraine and former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych.
Prosecutors say Manafort generated millions in income from his Ukraine work, and developed a scheme to hide it from U.S. authorities and later tried to distance himself from Yanukovych.
“Manafort’s position as chairman of the Trump campaign and his incentive to keep that position are relevant to his strong interest in distancing himself from former Ukrainian President Yanukovych, the subject of the false statements that he then reiterated to his FARA [Foreign Agent Registration Act] attorney to convey to the Department of Justice,” the government’s Monday filing says, a response to Manafort’s motion in limine of the same date.
According to the superseding indictment, Manafort and his longtime business associate and former co-defendant Rick Gates developed a cover story after news reports in 2016 about Manafort’s connections to Ukraine, which prompted him to resign as Trump’s campaign manager.
Gates has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of lying to federal agents and is cooperating with Mueller.
Weissmann said Monday that Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign is relevant to the September trial.
“Here, it would be difficult for the jury to understand why Manafort and Gates began crafting and disseminating a false story regarding their Ukrainian lobbying work nearly two years after that work ceased — but before any inquiry by the FARA Unit — without being made aware of the reason why public scrutiny of Manafort’s work intensified in mid-2016,” the government’s response says.
“Nor would Manafort’s motives for continuing to convey that false information to the FARA Unit make sense: having disseminated a false narrative to the press while his position on the Trump campaign was in peril, Manafort either had to admit these falsehoods publicly or continue telling the lie.”
Manafort argued that potential jurors could have strong views about the president that could be prejudicial, but Weissmann said that jurors will be required to set aside such views. Weissmann contends that Manafort failed to explain how a detailed instruction to the jury could not neutralize any potential prejudice.
Manafort had also asked the court to exclude any reference to his coming trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, slated to begin July 31.
Weissmann said Monday that prosecutors do not intend to refer to the charges, but called Manafort’s request “overbroad” since some of the evidence in that case concerning Manafort’s failure to disclose foreign bank accounts is relevant to the case in Washington, D.C.
Weissmann also asked the court to deny Manafort’s request to exclude testimony from the attorney who handled his Foreign Agent Registration Act filings.
Manafort objected on the grounds that the information was privileged but had no way to know or fully brief his objections since the government never disclosed the substance of the attorney’s interview with Mueller’s team.
But Weissmann said Manafort has long known the substance of the questions posed to the attorney and has had ample time to challenge it as privileged.
“The specific answers the attorney gave are irrelevant to the legal issue, and this motion should not be a vehicle for pretrial discovery about what the attorney told the government in response to proper questions,” Weissman wrote in the government’s response.
Also Monday, Manafort’s attorney Richard Westling responded to the government’s request to preclude prosecutors from offering evidence claiming vindictive prosecution or calling into question Mueller’s motives or mandate.
Prosecutors also asked the court to exclude any evidence that prosecutors decided not to prosecute Manafort prior to Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, which Westling said defense attorneys do not intend to raise.
Westling also said that Manafort does not plan to introduce evidence concerning vindictive prosecution, but would like to be able to question witnesses about proffer agreements.
“Mr. Manafort reserves his right to question witnesses with regard to proffer agreements, plea agreements, cooperation agreements, and/or immunity agreements that the Special Counsel has entered into with certain witnesses and the reasons and motivations as to why those witnesses have chosen to testify as part of the Special Counsel’s case,” Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing wrote in the 2-page response.