Bill Clark/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom via ZUMA Press
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Following his October 30 indictment on federal charges, Paul Manafort worsened his legal woes by secretly drafting an editorial defending his work on behalf of a former Ukrainian president—cowriting the piece with a “long-time Russian colleague” who is “assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service”— according to a motion filed Monday by federal prosecutors. The alleged stunning move by Manafort has torpedoed the $11-million bail package that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team tentatively agreed upon with Manafort’s lawyers last week.
Manafort and his longtime colleague Rick Gates face trial on charges including money laundering and tax evasion for over tens of millions of dollars received for political work on behalf of the political party headed byViktor Yanukovich, a pro-Russian former Ukrainian president ousted in 2014. Manafort also faces charges related to his failure to register as a foreign lobbyist.
Mueller’s team alleges that with Manafort awaiting trial on those charges: “As late as November 30, 2017, Manafort and a colleague were ghostwriting an editorial in English regarding his political work for Ukraine. Manafort worked on the draft with a long-time Russian colleague of Manafort’s, who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.”
The filing does not contain additional details but says that the US government will file a separate sealed motion including evidence support their claim.
The prosecutors say that Manafort’s ghostwriting violates a gag order imposed by US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson that the parties “not try the case in the press.” They say that the “editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of defendant Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication (much less for Manafort and his long-time associate to ghostwrite it in another’s name).”
A Manafort spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If accurate, the allegations suggest an extraordinarily foolish move by Manafort, who has previously been surveilled by federal agents and should know his communications are likely to be monitored.
In their motion, prosecutors for the special counsel request that Judge Berman reject a recent preliminary bail agreement and impose strict new conditions on Manafort. “Because Manafort has now taken actions that reflect an intention to violate or circumvent the Court’s existing orders, at a time one would expect particularly scrupulous adherence, the government submits that the proposed bail package is insufficient reasonably to assure his appearance as required,” they wrote. Prosecutors seek a bail package now including a clause that allows them to seize Manafort’s assets if he violates any part of the agreement, and that he submit to full time GPS monitoring.