Mueller Seeks Immunity for Five Potential Manafort Witnesses

(CN) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday asked a federal judge to grant immunity from prosecution for five potential witnesses whose testimony he wants to compel at the upcoming criminal trial of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort.

Mueller argues in a court filing that if the five unidentified people are not granted immunity they could either refuse to take the witness stand or refuse to answer questions citing their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Mueller also asked U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis to seal from public view the court motions detailing the witnesses identities.

“The five individuals identified in the motions at issue are third parties who have not been charged in this matter, and who have not been identified publicly with the case, the filing states.

“Disclosing the motions would reveal those individuals’ involvement in the investigation and the trial, thereby creating the risk of their undue harassment,” Mueller’s team says.

Manafort is scheduled to stand trial on charges that include bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and tax crimes in Alexandria, Virginia begining on July 25.

The case, and another pending trial in the federal court in Washington, D.C., currently slated to begin in September, both grow out of consulting and lobbying work Manafort performed on behalf of pro-Russian politicians in the Ukraine prior to his joining the Trump campaign.

Also on Tuesday, Judge Ellis denied Manafort’s request to move his Virginia trial from Alexandria to Roanoke.

Ellis found Manafort’s concern about the partiality of the jury pool unfounded, based on the demographics of Northern Virginia which boasts a population of roughly 3 million people. A jury pool will be comprised of jurors from all over Northern Virginia, not just those within 10 or 15-minute proximity to Washington, D.C.

“It is worth noting that in the course of conducting voir dire [jury selection] it is not necessary that prospective jurors demonstrate complete ignorance of the facts of this case, rather it is sufficient if the juror can lay aside his impression or opinion and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court,” Ellis wrote.

Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing had claimed the media coverage of the indictment and trial has the selection of a fair and impartial jury nearly impossible. Mueller said coverage of Manafort’s case has been no different than any other high profile corruption case and the venue shift is unwarranted.

Manafort awaits his trial at the Alexandria Detention Center.


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