Manafort Judge Criticizes Legal Teams Over Secret Filings

(Bloomberg) -- The judge overseeing the money-laundering case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said there had been too many secret filings in the high-profile criminal prosecution and that she would make several of them public.

“People are overdoing it just a little bit,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Wednesday, reminding the lawyers that her objective was to "include the public as much as possible." Still, several minutes later, she closed the courtroom for two hours to talk privately with prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Jackson made her remarks at the start of a pretrial hearing to review Manafort’s bail package and a request by lawyers for Manafort’s co-defendant, Rick Gates, to leave the case. The judge then ordered reporters and other members of the public to leave her Washington courtroom so she could first discuss Manafort’s private financial matters, and then the withdrawal request. 

Before Jackson sealed the courtroom, prominent Washington defense lawyer Tom Green sat in the back of the room. CNN has reported that he was preparing to represent Gates. While Manafort was in the closed courtroom, the lawyer huddled in the hall with Gates, and then with his current counsel, Shanlon Wu and Walter Mack.

When Manafort and his lawyers left the courtroom, Green went in with Wu, Mack and Gates. After the closed-door session ended, Gates walked out with Green, while Wu and Mack left separately. Outside the courthouse, Green and Gates were seen hailing a cab.

"We’re still in the case," Wu told reporters, adding there was no change in status. Asked if Green was entering the case on behalf of Gates, Wu said only if he notifies the court.

Gates asked the judge in a letter unsealed Wednesday to put off consideration of the lawyers’ request to quit until Feb. 21.

Jackson hasn’t set a trial date, but she has said it may begin in September or October. Prosecutors have handed over at least hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence to defense lawyers, who will soon file motions to challenge the government’s case.

Manafort, who was Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, and Gates, his deputy, are accused of failing to register as agents in the U.S. for political consulting they did for Ukraine and pro-Russian politicians there, conspiring to launder millions of dollars, and hiding offshore bank accounts. Manafort is accused of laundering money to buy houses, cars, clothes and landscaping services. Both men deny wrongdoing.

The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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