Felon: Paul Manafort was convicted of eight fraud counts at a first trial and now a second will follow at the end of September
Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort asked Wednesday to move his upcoming trial out of the nation’s capital, with his lawyers citing ‘intensely negative news coverage’ and potential juror bias against him.
The lobbyist is now a convicted felon after a jury found him guilty of eight of 18 counts of fraud at the end of his first trial, in Alexandria, VA.
His attorneys now want the next trial moved 240 miles and made the request in a formal submission to Judge Amy Berman Jackson published Wednesday.
‘While federal courts often address issues of pretrial publicity in high-profile cases, it is difficult to conceive of a matter that has received media attention of the same magnitude as the prosecution of Mr. Manafort,’ the lawyers wrote in asking to relocate the trial to Roanoke, Virginia, which is in the Western District of Virginia and the seat of its chief judge.
The request is similar to one from last month that preceded a separate trial for Manafort in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort’s lawyers had also asked for that case to be moved to Roanoke, but the judge refused. Manafort was found guilty of eight counts last week, and the jury deadlocked on 10 others.
Jury selection is to start Sept. 17 in a trial related to Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying and political consulting work.
In a new court filing, Manafort’s lawyers argued that media coverage of the case had been ‘sensationalized’ and overwhelmingly negative and would make it hard for the former Trump aide to get a fair trial in Washington.
Although neither the Virginia case nor the D.C. case focuses on Russian election interference, the defense lawyers say news coverage of Manafort has frequently mentioned his relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a man who U.S. authorities say has ties to Russian intelligence.
They suggested President Donald Trump himself had exemplified the problem with an inaccurate tweet – when Manafort was taken into custody before trial for violating the terms of his home confinement – that may have contributed to the misperception that he had been sentenced for committing a crime.
The lawyers also argued that potential jurors in Washington are far more likely to be familiar with the allegations in the case than those in Roanoke, saying the D.C. region ranks first in the country in households with internet access and computers.
Roanoke, by contrast, is the 70th-largest media market in the U.S., they said.
‘Nowhere in the country is the bias against Mr. Manafort more apparent than here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,’ they wrote. ‘The phrase ‘inside-the-beltway’ was coined to capture the area’s preoccupation with all things political.’
The application did not mention political leanings but Washington D.C. voted overwhelmingly against Trump, while Roanoke country was 61.5 per cent Trump and 33.5 per cent Hillary Clinton at the 2016 election.
The city of Roanoke however was majority Clinton, with 56.1 per cent of voters backing her and 38.5 per cent backing Trump. A federal jury would be drawn from both the city and the county and surrounding areas.
U.S. District Judge Jackson indicated Tuesday that she is not going to go easy on Manafort’s defense team – a shift from Manafort’s prior trial, where the prosecutors received the majority of the judge’s criticism.
Jackson, who was appointed to the court by President Obama in 2010, was reluctant to move the upcoming case during a pretrial hearing on Tuesday. She noted that press coverage of the case is national and a venue change may not make a difference.
Change of tone: Judge Amy Berman Jackson hit the Manafort defense team – in contrast to Judge T.S. Ellis III who repeatedly went after prosecutors in Manafort’s first trial
In the crosshairs: Kevin Downing, Manafort’s defense attorney, leaves court in Washington after being told by the judge: ‘All right, Mr. Downing. We don’t need to be smug.’
‘I believe that the overwhelming majority of the publicity is national,’ she said.
Manafort’s legal team must submit a final request for venue change by tomorrow – but they acknowledged in court that they are not sure where they want to move the trial.
‘I don’t know that I have the answer to that yet, judge,’ said Manafort’s lawyer Richard Westling, after the judge asked where the trial should be moved. ‘It may be that there is no place.’
During Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, Va., earlier this month, Judge T.S. Ellis rejected a similar request from his attorneys. He argued that the media attention was national and not confined to the northern Virginia suburbs of D.C.
Manafort’s attorneys also received some mild rebukes from Judge Jackson during the hearing on Tuesday – a pointed contrast to the way Judge T.S. Ellis III had repeatedly gone after Robert Mueller’s prosecutors in the first trial.
When Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing interrupted prosecutor Andrew Weissmann to complain about the amount of time the defense was getting to prepare for the case, the judge cut him off.
‘All right, Mr. Downing,’ said Jackson. ‘We don’t need to be smug. We don’t need to be cute.’
Jackson also noted that there were ‘people who are very expressive in this courtroom,’ without specifically naming the defense attorneys.
‘That is not going to happen when there is a jury in the jury box,’ she said.
During the hearing, Jackson pushed the start of the trial back one week, from Sept. 17 to Sept. 24.
Manafort’s attorneys requested the delay. They reportedly need more time to prepare because Manafort’s previous trial just wrapped up one week ago.
Crucial case: Robert Mueller’s second trial of Paul Manafort comes after the the president hinted at a pardon for the fraudster
Manafort was convicted of eight counts of tax and bank fraud in that case, carrying a maximum combined penalty of 80 years in prison.
Prosecutors have until tomorrow to decide whether they want to retry Manafort on 10 additional counts that deadlocked the jury. Depending on their decision, that could cause additional delays in one or both cases.
Judge Jackson also rejected a request from defense attorneys to ask prospective jurors who they voted for during the 2016 election. Judge Ellis had rejected a similar request in Manafort’s previous case.
In addition, Jackson denied a defense request to ask potential jurors whether they voted in 2016 – a question that Manafort’s attorneys claimed would give insight into the political ‘appetite’ of the jury candidates.
However, attorneys for both sides will be allowed to ask potential jurors about their prior knowledge of the Manafort case, if they have ever posted about Manafort on social media, or if they have any views on officials involved in the Trump 2016 campaign.
Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team objected to questions that would emphasize the Trump campaign during jury selection, saying the campaign would be a small part of the trial if it is mentioned at all.
Jackson also said the jury selection will likely last a few days – another contrast to Manafort’s last trial, where jury selection took just a few hours.
The jury selection will also be closed to the public due to publicity surrounding the case.
The jury selection in Manafort’s previous case was public, but most of the questioning of individual jurors was blocked out by a white noise machine.
Two additional pretrial hearings before September 24 to discuss evidence that can be submitted in the case.
Decision time: Judge T.S. Ellis III will sentence Manafort after presiding over his trial
Prosecutors from Mueller’s special counsel team repeatedly drew the ire of Judge Ellis during Manafort’s previous trial in Alexandria.
Ellis tore into the government attorneys on a daily basis throughout the three week trial for offenses such as taking too much time to question witnesses and allegedly focusing too heavily on Manafort’s extravagant spending.
Ellis even called out a prosecutor for supposedly crying in the courtroom after one heated exchange with the judge.
‘I understand how frustrated you are. In fact, there’s tears in your eyes right now,’ said Ellis to Prosecutor Greg Andres.
Andres denied he was crying during the incident.
During their argument, which stemmed from Ellis’s claim that prosecutors were taking too long to question witnesses, Ellis rebuked Andres for failing to look him in the eye.
‘Look at me! Don’t look down,’ snapped the judge.
On other occasions, Ellis objected to prosecutors using the term ‘oligarch’ to describe Manafort’s Ukrainian clients, calling the term ‘pejorative.’
He also banned the government attorneys from mentioning Russia or collusion, the subjects of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, and cut them off while they were discussing Manafort’s spending habits.
‘It isn’t a crime to have a lot of money and be profligate in your spending,’ said the judge.
Ellis’s clashes with the prosecution prompted criticism from some legal observers, including retired U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner, who blasted Ellis’s allegedly ‘extraordinary bias’ in a Washington Post column.
WHAT MANAFORT IS GUILTY OF – AND WHAT HE COULD GET
The jury found Paul Manafort, 69, guilty of:
- Five counts of filing false income tax returns (one each for the years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014). Each count carries three year statutory maximum
- One count of filing a false FBAR Foreign Bank Account Report in 2012. Carries a five year statutory maximum
- One count of bank fraud for a $3.4 million Citizens Bank loan. Carries a 30 year statutory maximum
- One count of bank fraud for a $1 million Bank of California loan. Carries 30 years statutory maximum
This sentiment was echoed by Fox News analyst and former judge Andrew Napolitano, who criticized Ellis for ‘making too much of the case about him.’
‘If you feel that negatively about the government, you shouldn’t be on the case,’ said Napolitano. ‘Or you should keep those feelings to yourself, not manifest them.’
The hearing came after it emerged that Manafort held talks with prosecutors about making a plea to settle charges against him in Washington, D.C. – shortly before Trump inveighed against ‘flipping.’
His team met with Mueller’s lawyers about resolving the second set of charges while the Virginia jury was deliberating over a four-day period, the Wall Street Journal reported.
There has been considerable media speculation that Manafort has much to tell should he ever reach a broad cooperation agreement with authorities. He helmed Trump’s campaign during the critical convention period, overseeing the delegate count.
He is linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. According to prosecutors who searched Manafort’s home and got his emails, it was out of an effort to become ‘whole’ with the oligarch that Manafort offered to provide briefings on the Trump campaign.
In the D.C. trial, Manafort faces charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, obstruction of justice by lying to the FBI, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
He set up a skein of offshore accounts to stash millions earned representing a pro-Moscow Ukrainian political party, according to the case laid out by prosecutors.
Trump last week inveighed against the practice of prosecutors enticing lower-level people facing criminal charges to ‘flip’ in order to get them to spill the beans on higher-ups.
Michael Cohen, former lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on eight counts last week
Lot of it about: Both the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg (left), and David Pecker (right), the CEO of American Media Inc, the publisher of the National Enquirer, were granted immunity by federal prosecutors
‘It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal,’ Trump told Fox News.
‘I know all about flipping, 30, 40 years I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is or as high as you can go,’ Trump complained.
Trump popped off about flipping following the guilty plea of longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to eight criminal charges. He gets sentenced in December.
‘It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair,’ Trump continued. ‘If you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that. … And I have seen it many times. I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.’
In a week of bombshell revelations, it also came out that Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and National Enquirer CEO David Pecker each have been granted a form of immunity from prosecution.
Both feature in the saga of how Cohen paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels in a hush agreement, later to get reimbursed by the Trump Organization. Pecker hired former Playboy model Karen McDougal for $150,000, in a deal worked out with Cohen. Both women claim they had sexual affairs with Trump, which he denies.
It was not clear what charges Manafort sought to negotiate. His second trial starts Sept. 17th. He has likely racked up substantial legal fees, and could potentially face retrial on 10 charges to which the jury couldn’t reach a verdict in Virginia.
Manafort’s longtime deputy, Rick Gates, himself pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors during Manafort’s trial. But Manafort’s defense brought up false Gates covering up an affair, and one juror said the jury panel discounted his testimony.
ROBERT MUELLER’S PROBE SO FAR: SEVEN CONVICTIONS – INCLUDING THREE TOP TRUMP AIDES, A JAILED ATTORNEY AND 25 RUSSIANS ACCUSED
GUILTY: MICHAEL FLYNN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in December 2017. Awaiting sentence
Flynn was President Trump’s former National Security Advisor and Robert Mueller’s most senior scalp to date. He previously served when he was a three star general as President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: MICHAEL COHEN
Pleaded guilty to eight counts including fraud and two campaign finance violations in August 2018. Awaiting sentence
Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal attorney, starting working for him and the Trump Organization in 2007. He is the longest-serving member of Trump’s inner circle to be implicated by Mueller. Cohen professed unswerving devotion to Trump – and organized payments to silence two women who alleged they had sex with the-then candidate: porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.He admitted that payments to both women were felony campaign finance violations – and admitted that he acted at the ‘direction’ of ‘Candidate-1’: Donald Trump.
He also admitted tax fraud by lying about his income from loans he made, money from taxi medallions he owned, and other sources of income, at a cost to the Treasury of $1.3 million.
GUILTY: PAUL MANAFORT
Found guilty of eight charges of bank and tax fraud in August 2018. Awaiting sentence and second trial
Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign from March 2016 and chaired it from June to August 2016, overseeing Trump being adopted as Republican candidate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He is the most senior campaign official to be implicated by Mueller. Manafort was one of Washington D.C.’s longest-term and most influential lobbyists but in 2015, his money dried up and the next year he turned to Trump for help, offering to be his campaign chairman for free – in the hope of making more money afterwards. But Mueller unwound his previous finances and discovered years of tax and bank fraud as he coined in cash from pro-Russia political parties and oligarchs in Ukraine.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of tax and bank fraud but was convicted of eight counts. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 charges. A second trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent is due in September.
GUILTY: RICK GATES
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Gates was Manafort’s former deputy at political consulting firm DMP International. He admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government on financial activity, and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of congress in 2013. As a result of his guilty plea and promise of cooperation, prosecutors vacated charges against Gates on bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, filing false tax returns, helping prepare false tax filings, and falsely amending tax returns.
GUILTY: GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October 2017. Awaiting sentence
Papadopoulos was a member of Donald Trump’s campaign foreign policy advisory committee. He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his contacts with London professor Josef Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-funded think tank.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: RICHARD PINEDO
Pleaded guilty to identity fraud in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Pinedo is a 28-year-old computer specialist from Santa Paula, California. He admitted to selling bank account numbers to Russian nationals over the internet that he had obtained using stolen identities.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: ALEX VAN DER ZWAAN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in February 2018. He served a 30-day prison sentence earlier this year and was deported to the Netherlands upon his release.
Van der Zwaan is a Dutch attorney for Skadden Arps who worked on a Ukrainian political analysis report for Paul Manafort in 2012.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about when he last spoke with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik.
CHARGED: KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK
Indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Kilimnik is a former employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm and helped him with lobbying work in Ukraine. He is accused of witness tampering, after he allegedly contacted individuals who had worked with Manafort to remind them that Manafort only performed lobbying work for them outside of the U.S.
He has been linked to Russian intelligence and is currently thought to be in Russia – effectively beyond the reach of extradition by Mueller’s team.
INDICTED: THE RUSSIANS
Twenty-five Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Two of these Russian nationals were also indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 11 were indicted for conspiracy to launder money. Fifteen of them were also indicted for identity fraud.
Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the charges. Russia effectively bars extradition of its nationals. The only prospect Mueller has of bringing any in front of a U.S. jury is if Interpol has their names on an international stop list – which is not made public – and they set foot in a territory which extradites to the U.S.
POLITICS, SEX, AND LIES: THE RISE AND FALL OF PAUL MANAFORT
In the span of just two years, Paul Manafort has gone from one of Washington’s most sought-after Republican lobbyists to a political pariah – and now his conviction will seal that status forever.
It has been a long and spectacular fall from grace for the 69-year-old former Trump campaign manager, the son of a small-town mayor who went on to work for four U.S. presidents and made his fortune as the Washington mouthpiece for some of the world’s most notorious dictators.
Today Manafort has few defenders in the nation’s capital, after being charged with tax fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Even Manafort’s former boss, President Trump, claimed he never would have hired the former lobbyist if he had known about the allegations.
‘Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!’ wrote Trump in a Twitter post in June.
The power brokers: Paul Manafort, his future business partners Roger Stone and Lee Atwater, were photographed as young Republican operatives. Stone, a Trump confidante and notorious political dirty trickster is now fighting off the Mueller probe himself; Atwater died in 1991, a former RNC chairman with a reputation for dirty campaigns. All three cashed in on their political work by lobbying those they got elected
Manafort, the grandson of an Italian immigrant, was raised in a staunch Republican home in New Britain, Connecticut.
When he was 16, his father Paul John Manafort Sr. was elected mayor of New Britain and served for three terms.
In 1981, Manafort Sr. was indicted – but later acquitted – on perjury charges in a sweeping city corruption and bribery scandal that also ensnared the police and fire chiefs.
After Catholic parochial schools and graduating from Georgetown University Law School, Manafort went on to work as an advisor for Republican Presidents Gerald Ford.
He served as an advisor to Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole’s presidential campaign.
But he – and his business partners – worked out how to turn political advising into a gusher of cash: by lobbying the very politicians they had helped elect.
He co-founded a prominent lobbying firm with ex-Nixon aide Roger Stone, and other partners, which shopped their access to top Republicans to U.S. businesses, state and city governments, and anyone who would pay.
That came to embrace the wider world too; the Manafort lobbying roster included brutal regimes willing to pay high fees for his services – including Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Zaire military leader Mobutu Sese Seko.
Betrayed: Kathleen Manafort stood by her husband despite his family finding proof of his mistress on Instagram; she attended every minute of his trial
Manafort went on to found his own political consulting firm in 2005, bringing on his former intern Rick Gates as his trusted deputy.
He also continued to take on controversial clients. In 2010, Manafort helped elect Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, head of Ukraine’s Putin-allied Party of Regions.
The victory paid off – between 2010 and 2014, federal investigators said Manafort’s firm earned ‘a cash spigot’: $60 million in fees from the Party of Regions’ political patrons.
According to prosecutors, Manafort stashed the funds away in a series of offshore bank accounts and shell companies, and failed to disclose the income in his tax returns. In total, they claim he dodged taxes on $15 million.
But after Yanukovych was voted out of power by Ukraine’s parliament in 2014, Manafort’s fortunes suddenly changed. He stopped getting payments from Yanukovych’s wealthy oligarch supporters, and started to have trouble paying his bills.
This is when prosecutors claim Manafort started applying for loans using phony financial information. In total, they said he scammed banks out of $20 million.
Manafort’s alleged crimes were uncovered during the course of a special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, who has been investigating potential Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion with the Trump campaign.
In addition to the tax and bank fraud trial in Alexandria, Virginia, Manafort also faces additional counts of failing to register as a foreign agent for his Ukraine work. That trial is set to take place in Washington, D.C.
Even before the charges were filed against him, Manafort’s personal life had been unravelling, according to years of hacked text messages between his daughters Andrea, 32, and Jessica, 36, that were posted online.
According to the messages, Manafort’s family had caught him having an affair with a woman who was around the same age as his daughters, renting a pricy house for her in the Hamptons and paying her credit card bill.
They discovered the affair after seeing the woman’s posts boasting about her expensive travel and dinners on Instagram.
Manafort, who was undergoing an emotional breakdown according to the messages, committed himself to a psychiatric clinic in Arizona in 2015.
Texts: Manafort’s daughters Jessica (left, with now ex-husband Jeff Yohai) and Andrea (right with husband Christopher Shand) exchanged text messages which were hacked revealing his affairs and calling him a psychopath.
Fruits of lobbying: This is the condo overlooking the Potomac where the FBI raided Manafort on orders from Mueller. He bought it for $2.75 million, part of a property empire worth conservatively $15 million
After he was released in 2016 – claiming he had ‘new insight’ into himself – he linked up with the Trump campaign and became the candidate’s campaign manager during the crucial months surrounding the Republican National Convention.
His daughter Andrea took a different view of that.She wrote in a leaked text to a friend, who was not named in the leak: ‘Trump probably has more morals than my dad. Which is really just saying something about my dad. My dad is a psycho!!! At least trump let his wives leave him. Plus, Trump has been a good father.’
And she also texted: ‘Trump waited a little too long in my opinion, but I can attest to the fact that he has now hired one of the world’s greatest manipulators. I hope my dad pulls it off. Then I can sell my memoir with all his dirty secrets for a pretty penny.’
Despite the clearly unhappy family, Manafort’s wife Kathleen stood by him in the face of his infidelity.
She also loyally attended each day of his tax fraud trial, always sitting in the row directly behind his defense table.
Since June, Manafort has been incarcerated for alleged witness tampering related to his foreign agent case. He has been serving that time in a county jail in Alexandria which is close to the federal court where his tax and bank fraud trial was held.
In a recent mug shot, the fashion-conscious Manafort sported a jailhouse jumpsuit and shadowy stubble. His brown hair, which he previously dyed, is now tinged with grey.
The former lobbyist, who once spent $18,000 on a python skin jacket, has also been forced to attend his trial without socks – because he reportedly balked at the white ones he is required to wear as an inmate.
The charges against Manafort have even impacted the legacy of his father, a popular three-term mayor in New Britain, Connecticut, from 1965 to 1971.
This month the city changed a street named after the former mayor from ‘Paul Manafort Drive’ to ‘Paul Manafort Sr. Drive’ in order to distance it from the controversy surrounding Manafort’s trial.