Manafort Asks Judge to Probe FBI Leaks During Investigation
(Bloomberg) -- Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, asked a judge to investigate FBI leaks of secret grand-jury information that came before his indictments.
Manafort is seeking a hearing about leaks that he says interfere with his right to a fair trial in Alexandria, Virginia, where Special Counsel Robert Mueller signed an indictment accusing him of bank and tax fraud. The 69-year-old also faces a federal indictment in Washington over allegations of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for his political consulting in Ukraine.
The leakers have subjected Manafort to “a torrent of negative and apparently false press generated by numerous unlawful disclosures,” according to a filing late Monday in federal court in Alexandria. “These government-sourced disclosures have violated the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, internal government policies and procedures, federal statutes, and Mr. Manafort’s constitutional rights.”
Manafort’s request that U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III hold a hearing comes as Trump, Republican leaders, and conservative media have repeatedly criticized former FBI Director James Comey and his ex-deputy, Andrew McCabe, for leaks and their conduct during the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Ellis has scheduled a May 25 hearing to consider Manafort’s motions. His trial is set for July 10.
Comey and McCabe have “admitted leaking information to the press during their tenures at the FBI,” according to the filing. “Both individuals had direct involvement in the investigation of the Trump campaign.”
Manafort’s attorneys decried reports printed over 18 months that they said relied on government sources. That information was either false, subject to grand jury secrecy, or was potentially classified, according to the lawyers. They cited reports by the Associated Press, New York Times, CNN, NBC News, and BuzzFeed News.
Leaks about surveillance of Manafort with foreign individuals is “particularly troubling,” according to the filing. In the pre-trial exchange of evidence, Mueller’s office has produced no tapes, notes, transcripts or other materials to defense lawyers showing “surveillance or intercepts of communications between Mr. Manafort and Russian intelligence officials, Russian government officials (or any other foreign officials).”
When Manafort asked for such materials, Mueller’s office said it had none, according to the filing.
“The natural implication of this is that these government leaks were intentionally designed to create a false narrative in order to garner support for the appointment of a special counsel” in May 2017, according to Manafort’s lawyers.
In a separate filing Monday, Manafort’s lawyers asked the judge to dismiss one of several tax counts against him in the Virginia indictment.
The count in question accuses him of failing to file a foreign bank and financial accounts report, or FBAR, for 2011. Manafort’s attorneys said prosecutors didn’t charge him within the required five-year period. He’s also charged with not filing FBARs for 2012 to 2014, filing false tax returns and bank fraud.
Manafort also asked the Virginia judge to suppress evidence obtained by federal agents in a search of his Alexandria home on July 26, 2017. He’d already made a similar request in the Washington case.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty in Washington and Alexandria, and he faces two trials.
Manafort previously asked the judge to dismiss the entire indictment in Virginia, claiming that Mueller went too far by investigating crimes beyond Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He claims that Mueller exceeded his appointment order to investigate coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly” from his probe.
Last week, a judge in Washington dismissed a civil lawsuit that Manafort filed using similar arguments. In that case, the judge said Manafort should save that reasoning for his criminal case.
The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), and U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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