Potential Manafort Jurors Are Asked If Trump Links Would Sway Them
(Bloomberg) -- The judge overseeing Paul Manafort’s second criminal trial wants to know whether the jury pool can be impartial even though people in the case worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Potential jurors answered the Trump query in filling out a questionnaire that also asked whether they’ve formed any opinions on the case based on news accounts or the involvement of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is prosecuting Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman.
Jurors were asked if it would be “difficult for you to remain fair and impartial to both sides” even if people involved in the campaign “were associated at some time” with Trump’s campaign, according to the 27-page document released Wednesday.
The potential panelists were also asked if they had knowledge of more than 120 people associated with the case, including many who may testify as witnesses. One of them is Sam Patten, a lobbyist who pleaded guilty on Aug. 31 and admitted funneling $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch to Trump’s inaugural committee. Patten, who worked with Manafort in Ukraine, is cooperating with Mueller and has agreed to testify at any trial.
About 125 people filled out questionnaires on Tuesday in federal court in Washington, where U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson spoke to them briefly. She’ll question them on Sept. 17 to choose 12 jurors and several alternates. Opening statements are scheduled for Sept. 24.
Manafort, 69, is accused of conspiring to launder money, failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine and obstructing justice. Last month, he was convicted in Alexandria, Virginia, of eight counts, including bank and tax fraud, while jurors deadlocked on 10 other charges. The judge in that case declared a mistrial on those counts.
Manafort’s second trial will focus more than the first on the consulting and lobbying work that he did for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russia Party of Regions.
Among the people associated with the case listed on the questionnaire was former Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, whose 30-year-old firm shut down after Manafort was first indicted in October.
The charges detailed Manafort’s clandestine influence campaign on behalf of Yanukovych, including work with two unidentified firms that "lobbied multiple members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions, the validity of Ukraine elections, and the propriety of Yanukovych’s imprisoning his presidential rival."
Mueller’s indictment identified the firms as Company A and Company B and said they were paid by Manafort with more than $2 million in offshore funds. Company B is the Podesta Group and Company A is Mercury Public Affairs LLC, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The potential jurors were also asked whether they had any connections to 17 people at Podesta Group and nine people affiliated with Mercury, including partner Vin Weber, once a prominent congressman. It’s not clear whether Podesta or Weber will be called as witnesses.
Potential jurors were asked about many of the witnesses from the first trial, including Manafort’s former right-hand man, Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller.
The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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