Former Trump campaign chair, aide due back in court Thursday on Russia probe charges

2 November 2017 5:08 PM

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Attorneys for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort called prosecutors’ characterization of the case against him “embellished” and filled with “loose talk” before a scheduled return to federal court Thursday afternoon, three days after being arraigned on charges brought by the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

A federal judge is expected to revisit bail terms for Manafort and partner Rick Gates, who each pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment unsealed Monday that charges the men with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other offenses in connection with their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

A U.S. magistrate put the men on home confinement pending the hearing after Manafort, 68, pledged to pay a $10 million penalty and Gates a $5 million penalty if they failed to appear. Prosecutors agreed the men could be released pending negotiation of a more detailed bail package.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson also is expected to grant prosecutors’ unopposed request to suspend the usual speedy trial requirements because of the complexity of the case.

The unsealed charges were the first criminal allegations to come from the Mueller probe into possible Russian influence in U.S. political affairs, including in the 2016 election of President Trump.

The government argued Manafort had a greater incentive to flee because he faced spending most of the rest of his life incarcerated if convicted of charges that would carry a recommended sentence of about 12 years to 15 years. The 45-year-old Gates if convicted could face an recommended 10- to 12-year sentence.

Ahead of the hearing, Gates spokesman Glenn Selig announced Gates’s new legal team, replacing George Dry. They include Walter Mack of Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack in New York City, Shan Wu of Wu, Grohovsky & Whipple in Washington, and Annemarie McAvoy, a former federal prosecutor and consultant specializing in financial crime investigations.

In a nine-page filing Thursday morning, Manafort’s lawyers, said their client does not pose a danger to the community and should go free on unsecured bond with the condition he not commit a crime pending resolution of the case.

“Mr. Manafort is ready to defend these allegations and preserve his livelihood and his assets,” attorneys Kevin M. Downing and Thomas E. Zehnle said in filings. The prospect that Manafort would “simply up and leave” his wife of nearly 40 years, two daughters and grandchildren to “live the rest of his life on the lam . . . is an imagined risk,” they said.

Manafort is “ one of the most recognizable people on the planet today,” they added, asking, “Where such an individual could [sic] even hide?”

Prosecutors also said Manafort held three passports, and that he registered a phone and an email account under an alias in May and traveled with it to Mexico in June, to China on May 23 and to Ecuador on May 9. On Thursday his lawyers said Manafort’s passports were all under his own name, and that travel with multiple passports was “perfectly permissible,” such as for travel between countries with sour relations.

Mueller team prosecutors Andrew Weissmann, Greg D. Andres and Kyle R. Freeny cited the difficulty in ascertaining Manafort’s wealth as a strike against allowing him to remain free.

The government said in loan applications and financial documents Manafort assessed his financial holdings as ranging from $136 million in May 2016 to $28 million and $63 million that August, in two separate financial applications, the government said.

Gates listed his and his wife’s net worth as $30 million in a February 2016 application for a line of credit, but just $2.6 million in a March 2016 residential loan application, prosecutors said.

Downing on Monday objected to prosecutors using the “valuation of assets that fluctuate greatly in different countries” to argue for Manafort’s home confinement.

Downing also ridiculed prosecutors for bringing what he called a trumped up “criminal tax case” with their allegations Manafort was trying to conceal assets from the government through international foreign transactions and moving money into the United States, including through accounts in Cyprus.

“The funds deposited in the Cypress [sic] accounts were from legal sources,” Downing and Zehnle wrote, adding, “It goes without saying that in an international scheme to conceal assets, individuals generally move them offshore, not to the United States.”

The filing showed signs of being hastily proofread, consistently misspelling Cyprus, for example, and at one point misidentifying Mueller’s team as the “Office of Special Investigation.”

Source: washingtonpost.com

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