Mueller on the defensive as Manafort lawyers demand investigation of press leaks

by WorldTribune Staff, May 17, 2018

The defense team for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has requested an investigative hearing into press leaks related to Manafort’s case.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, left, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort

In requesting the hearing, Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing cited 10 reports which relied on anonymous sources to implicate Manafort in possible criminal activity, Rowan Scarborough reported for The Washington Times on May 16.

Downing contends information in the articles came from grand jury testimony, which would be illegal for a prosecutor to leak, the report said.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has filed papers in U.S. District Court in Virginia opposing Downing’s request.

In a footnote to his filing, Mueller’s lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, “makes a pre-emptive argument before District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III. If the judge does allow a hearing, Downing should not be allowed to question special counsel prosecutors or other Justice Department lawyers,” Scarborough’s report said.

“To the extent Manafort contemplates testimony by Department of Justice attorneys, he would have to overcome the rule that testimony from prosecutors trying criminal cases is ‘disfavored,’” Weissmann’s brief states, citing previous court rulings.

Judge Ellis, who recently rebuked Mueller’s team on its prosecution strategy against Manafort, has set a May 25 hearing date.

Related: Blow-by-blow exchange between Judge Ellis and Mueller attorney, May 7, 2018

Downing cited a February 2017 article by the New York Times as one of the 10 stories. The article claimed the U.S. owned a year’s worth of intercepts and phone records between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence.

“On its face, the article is evidence of collusion. But former FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress that the story was wrong and that he warned senior leaders not to believe it,” Scarborough noted.

The New York Times article said, “The officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Ukraine. The officials declined to identify the other Trump associates on the calls.”

The story said Manafort communicated with Russian and Ukrainian intelligence.

Downing’s brief says he has asked Mueller for any evidence that Manafort communicated with Russian officials. Mueller reported back that he had none, Downing said.

“Despite multiple discoveries…. requests in this regard, the special counsel has not produced any materials to the defense – no tapes, notes, transcripts or any other material evidencing surveillance or intercepts of communications between Mr. Manafort and Russian intelligence officials, Russian government officials (or any other foreign officials). The office of special counsel has advised that there are no materials responsive to Mr. Manafort’s requests,” Downing said.

Of the 10 stories cited, Downing said, “This is but a small sampling of the improper disclosures made by government officials regarding the defendant.”

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