Paul Manafort was ordered into custody Friday after a federal judge revoked his house arrest, citing newly filed obstruction of justice charges. The move by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson made Manafort the first Trump campaign official to be jailed as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Already under intense pressure to cooperate with prosecutors in hopes of securing leniency, Manafort now loses the relative freedom he enjoyed while he prepared for two criminal trials in which he faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.
In issuing her ruling, Jackson said she had “struggled” with the decision but she couldn’t “turn a blind eye” to his conduct.
“You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,” she said.
A federal grand jury indicted Manafort and a longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, last week on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Manafort, 69, and Kilimnik are accused of attempting to tamper with witnesses in the case by trying to get them to lie about the nature of their Ukrainian political work.
Prosecutors say Manafort and Kilimnik tried to get the two witnesses to say that lobbying work carried out by clandestinely paid former politicians only occurred in Europe and not the U.S., a contention the two witnesses said they knew to be false.
The distinction matters because unregistered foreign lobbying in the U.S. is a crime, while lobbying solely in Europe would be outside the special counsel’s jurisdiction.
Manafort’s attorneys have accused prosecutors of using thing evidence to conjure a “sinister plot” out of “innocuous” contacts.
They contended that messages Manafort sent to two journalists could not have constituted witness tampering because “he is not aware of who the Special Counsel may call as witnesses.”
The lawyers filed a memo written by one of the witnesses for Manafort that they say shows the work of the group, known as the Hapsburg group, was European focused.
In response, prosecutors filed additional documents showing extensive lobbying contacts by the group in the U.S., which they said showed “the falsity of his representation.”
One of the documents was a 2013 memo from Manafort to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. It described how Manafort had designed a program that used the Hapsburg members to lobby U.S. lawmakers and influence American public opinion including meetings on Capitol Hill.
Manafort also pleaded not guilty to the latest indictment on Friday. Kilimnik, who prosecutors say is living in Russia, did not appear in court. Mueller’s team has said that Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence agencies, a claim he has previously denied.
Manafort will remain in jail while he awaits trial in both Washington and Virginia over the next few months.
He faces several felony charges — including tax evasion, bank fraud, money-laundering conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent — related to his Ukrainian political work, money he funneled through offshore accounts and loans he took out on property in the U.S.
Jackson ruled on Tuesday that Mueller’s team must identify unnamed individuals in the indictment against Manafort.
“While the government may be correct that the law does not necessarily require the Court to order the requested disclosure, the Court has broad discretion to resolve a motion for a bill of particulars after weighing the parties’ interests, and here, defendant is obliged to prepare for a complex trial with a voluminous record within a relatively short period of time, and he should not have to be surprised at a later point by the addition of a new name or allegation,” Jackson wrote.
Manafort’s trial in the District of Columbia is slated for Sept. 17.
In addition to facing charges in the D.C., Mueller’s prosecutors have also charged Manafort in the Eastern District Court of Virginia.
The judge in that case, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, upbraided federal prosecutors last month, suggesting they lied about the scope of the Russia investigation, and the true purpose of the criminal case, which is to bring down President Donald Trump.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” Ellis said. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”
The judge stated the 18-count indictment in the case, stemming from alleged both bank fraud and tax offenses against Manafort dating back to 2005 and 2007, seem to have nothing to do with the Russia collusion investigation.
Clearly, Ellis contended, the charges are meant to assert leverage over Manafort in order to get him to “sing.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.