Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort is facing trial on a variety of charges, but you haven’t heard much from him lately. That’s at least partly due to the fact that a gag order was placed on the entire affair by the judge hearing the case. If new allegations raised against Manafort are true, he was attempting to get around that inconvenient restriction by using a ghostwriter to publish an op-ed he was working on.
Oh, and to put a cherry on that particular dish, the guy (I’m assuming it’s a guy) is allegedly a Russian. (Associated Press)
In an attempt to burnish his public image and leave no fingerprints behind, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort recently enlisted a longtime colleague “assessed to have ties” to Russian intelligence to help him ghostwrite an op-ed, prosecutors said Monday.
Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller say in court papers that they believe the opinion piece — written while Manafort is on house arrest facing several felonies — would have violated a judge’s order that bars him from trying his case in the press.
They are now pushing for Manafort to remain confined to his home on GPS monitoring for the time being.
According to the court papers , Manafort and the colleague sought to publish the op-ed to influence public opinion about his political consulting in Ukraine, work at the heart of the criminal case against him. The op-ed was being drafted as late as last week.
The claims being made by Mueller’s prosecutors feature people who are mostly blank spaces at this point. They’re not naming the “associate with Russian ties” who was supposedly helping Manafort, but the Washington Post is hazarding an educated guess that it might be Konstantin Kilimnik, one of Manafort’s former employees who ran his office in Kiev when he did consulting work there.
First of all, if this accusation turns out to be true then Manafort really needs somebody better giving him advice. The guy is currently under house arrest with a GPS tracker locked on his ankle. Did he not suspect that the feds would be monitoring any and all of his communications during this period? And more to the point, if they were going to take note of any of his phone calls, emails or letters, do you suppose that they might show an immediate and extreme interest in anyone he was contacting… in Russia?
But with all that said, there’s something unsettling about the court order that Manafort supposedly violated. Why is there a gag order on Manafort to begin with? Back when Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the original gag order, Ed Morrissey commented on the decision and raised some troubling questions. The judge was offering the expected line of reasoning, saying that nobody should be talking to the press or making public statements because she needed to, “safeguard defendants’ rights to a fair trial, and to ensure that the court has the ability to seat a jury that has not been tainted by pretrial publicity.”
That all sounds great on paper, but this is part of the ongoing investigations by Bob Mueller and ties into the entire “Russian collusion” narrative. Sources inside the FBI leak information to the press so fast that people in the newsroom of the New York Times are getting whiplash. Everyone is speculating about all of these stories on a daily basis. What cause is being served by putting a gag order on the principals here?
Still, the gag order is in place and, as Ed noted in the article I linked above, Manafort’s legal team didn’t raise any objections when she imposed it. If he agreed to the deal then it’s on his head if he decided to break it. And assuming the accusations are valid, this was a particularly stupid way to go about it.