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Manafort Accuses Mueller Investigation of Trying to Poison Jury Pool with Claims of Witness Tampering
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11 Jun 2018 06:42 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Paul Manafort (Image source: Screenshot)

 

The case against Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is ramping up. Robert Mueller has added charges of witness tampering and added an indictment for his Russian aide, but Manafort has accused the special counsel's investigation of trying to poison the jury pool.

Mueller's new indictment includes the new counts against him as well as his aide, Konstantin Kilmnik, for tampering with witnesses with regards to their lobbying efforts for Ukraine. Mueller believes Kilmnik has links to Russian spy agencies.

Manafort is already dealing with charges in two different states, including bank and tax fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent.

Legal experts believe this could be enough to force him to cooperate with Mueller's investigation. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who is running for Illinois attorney general, believes it could be important politically. "You now have the former chairman of the Trump campaign charged with conspiring with a suspected Russian intelligence operative. That's quite astounding," he said.

Kilmnik served as a translator in the Russian Army, and it's thought he has at the minimum informal connections to Russian intelligence. It's thought that perhaps on one of his trips to the U.S. in 2016 that he tried to get Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska private briefings.

Manafort then filed court papers accusing Mueller's office of attempting to "poison" the jury pool with what his legal team sees as "dubious" charges of witness tampering.

His attorneys argue that the text messages, phone call records, and attempted phone calls did not add up to show an attempt to influence potential witnesses. They said most messages were "innocuous" and that the prosecutors don't show what is being discussed during an 84-second call other than "This is Paul."

"Mr. Manafort's Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury in this district may have been irreparably damaged by the special counsel's latest, very public, and very specious, filing of this motion," wrote the attorneys.

They also charged that references to the former campaign manager's use of encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram "suggests illegal intent" and showed a "not-too-subtle attempt to poison the potential jury pool against Mr. Manafort through alleged and uncharged 'bad conduct' raised during the bail process has now become an undeniable pattern of heavy-handed tactics employed by the special counsel."

A hearing on a pretrial release issue has been scheduled for June 15. Manafort has two upcoming trials related to these charges. A trial in DC is due to start in September, and a trial in Virginia id due to start at the end of July.

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