When Robert Mueller indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial crimes unrelated to his work for Donald Trump, the special counsel figured it was a slam dunk.
But that flew out the window when Manafort’s lawyers filed a motion that stopped Mueller cold in his tracks.
Now Mueller’s case is on the ropes and no one knows what will happen next.
Manafort’s legal team filed a motion with Judge T.S. Ellis to hold a hearing about the sources of illegal leaks from the grand jury Mueller convened to indict Manafort.
The lawyers are arguing that these leaks about Manafort colluding with Russia smeared the former Trump campaign chairman and that the Judge should dig to the bottom of this mess.
“Manafort, who is facing separate criminal cases brought by Mueller in federal court in Washington and Alexandria, Virginia, filed a motion late last month complaining that he was unfairly attacked in a flurry of news reports that appeared to be based on illegal leaks of grand jury secrets and classified information.
In the motion, filed with U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, Manafort’s defense said the release of sensitive details about the investigation threatened his ability to get a fair trial.
“By their actions, it is self-evident that the objective of these government sources was to create unfair prejudice against Mr. Manafort and thereby deprive him of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights,” attorneys Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle wrote. “The government’s investigation, and the criminal charges that ultimately resulted from it, are the epitome of a party seeking to decide a case in the press and not the courtroom.”
Regardless of the legal merits of Manafort’s motion, his lawyers’ effort to raise the leaks issue could bolster his chances of winning a pardon from President Donald Trump, who has railed against leaks he alleges have emerged from the Mueller investigation.”
Mueller’s team argued that the leaks could have come from anywhere, and even tried to use their response to intimidate Manafort’s team into silence by accusing them of being leakers.
“Mueller’s team said in a response to Manafort on Monday that there was no reason to believe the news accounts that Manafort’s defense identified were the product of prosecutors or investigators leaking information that came from a grand jury.
“He cites ten articles, none of which purports to disclose grand jury information,” prosecutors wrote. “Many of the matters reported, if accurate, would have been known to the defense, to witnesses who were interviewed or subpoenaed for documents, or to other investigators examining overlapping issues.”
Prosecutors also suggest that some of those leaking about Manafort could be members of Congress or their aides.
“Multiple accounts note that Manafort was also the subject of ongoing congressional investigations,” Mueller’s team noted. “References to ‘officials’ or ‘American officials’ in the reports … could thus be to people who are not subject to [grand jury secrecy] restrictions.”
Prosecutors suggested that if a hearing was held on the leaks, it would be fair game to look into whether any of them originated with Manafort’s attorneys or his spokesman Jason Maloni. Maloni wasn’t named in the filing, but was identified as “the spokesman who has regularly accompanied Manafort to court and has often been quoted, including in some of Manafort’s cited articles.”
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