Manafort tried to pen positive op-ed on Ukraine work: special counsel

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled a trove of documents on Friday showing what he said was "irrefutable evidence" that President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort violated a court gag order by ghost-writing an opinion piece created to improve his public image.

Prosecutors presented recent emails and a trail of changes they say Manafort made on November 29 to a draft copy of the article written in Microsoft Word.

"A fair reading of the Local Criminal Rule establishes that to the extent speech may be restrained, it is not a.'gag order.' Even a cursory reading of Gentile establishes that a defendant (and his counsel) do not lose all of their First Amendment rights in a criminal prosecution", Manafort's lawyers wrote, referring to a 1991 US Supreme Court opinion that addressed restrictions on public statements by parties and lawyers involved in litigation.

Initially, Manafort's lawyers had said in their court filing that the special counsel's office was willing to accept the proposed terms of his release.

Manafort Disputes Mueller Account That He Ghostwrote Op-Ed
Paul Manafort, Rick Gates case: Robert Mueller obtained 15 search warrants and more than 400000 documents

The op-ed, if it had been published, would have violated a court order not to publicly discuss the case, a prosecutor working on Mueller's team argued. They said Manafort had ghostwritten the piece with an associate believed to have ties to Russian intelligence. The piece was intended for the Kyiv Post, an English-language newspaper in Ukraine, according to the filing.

Prosecutors had cited the op-ed to argue against a bail package for Manafort, who is under house arrest.

The "narratives" also claimed that Manafort "never worked in Russia or for Russians", that his work was "centred on pro-Ukraine efforts to enter the European Union", and that he "never took cash payments". The filing explains what documents and evidence were provided to the defense teams as part of the discovery process. The special counsel had agreed to a bail deal secured with four properties worth $11.6 million, which Manafort would forfeit if he missed a court appearance.

Prosecutors in the Russian Federation probe have obtained hundreds of thousands of documents and gotten a host of information from laptops and phones in the ongoing investigation into former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

  • Rogelio Becker