Manafort’s case sad­dled by side is­sues, dis­putes with the judge

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - POLITICS -

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amy Ber­man Jack­son was not amused.

A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the for­mer cam­paign chair­man for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, was try­ing to jus­tify the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar value of his client’s home as part of a bail pack­age. Rather than pro­duc­ing tax as­sess­ment or prop­erty records, the lawyer sub­mit­ted to the judge a print­out from Zil­low, the on­line real es­tate web­site.

“Zil­low is ac­tu­ally con­sid­ered to be pretty ac­cu­rate, Your Honor,” said Kevin Down­ing, Manafort’s at­tor­ney. Jack­son swat­ted that aside, in­sist­ing she needed “some­thing, some piece of pa­per be­yond just what I got.”

On many days, the high-pro­file, high-stakes pros­e­cu­tion of Manafort — a case al­ready out­side the cen­tral elec­tion-med­dling man­date of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion — is mired in side is­sues that have left the judge ex­as­per­ated.

What­ever Manafort’s strat­egy, his team’s ef­forts ap­pear largely re­flec­tive of the for­mer in­ter­na­tional con­sul­tant’s frus­tra­tion with what he sees as an out-of-con­trol pros­e­cu­tion — and a bur­den­some house ar­rest from which his at­tor­neys, de­spite sev­eral at­tempts, have been un­able to free him. The halt­ing pace of the case in Wash­ing­ton is about to face an­other ob­sta­cle: With new charges filed in Vir­ginia, Manafort is now go­ing to have to bal­ance a wholly sep­a­rate case with a dif­fer­ent judge and pos­si­bly an­other trial.

Lawyer Down­ing and Judge Jack­son have clashed over the at­tor­ney’s provoca­tive pub­lic state­ments, Manafort’s own ghost­writ­ten opin­ion piece in Ukraine and even the for­mat of the court fil­ings sub­mit­ted by the de­fense. There also were weeks of re­quests by Rick Gates, Manafort’s re­cently flipped co-de­fen­dant, to at­tend his chil­dren’s sport­ing events, dis­putes over his in­volve­ment in a friend’s fundrais­ers and mul­ti­ple de­fense lawyer sub­sti­tu­tions. “We’ve been deal­ing with the minu­tiae of bond and soc­cer prac­tice and pub­lic re­la­tions and peo­ple chang­ing their minds about where they want to live and un­set­tled ques­tions con­cern­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion since Oc­to­ber, and it’s un­ac­cept­able,” Jack­son re­cently said, lament­ing to lawyers that they hadn’t yet set a trial date. Sep­a­rately, as the pre-trial do­ings pro­ceed, Manafort is su­ing spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, ac­cus­ing him of over­step­ping by in­dict­ing him for con­duct “un­moored” from the Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence. Manafort is ac­cused of act­ing as an un­reg­is­tered for­eign agent and or­ches­trat­ing an in­ter­na­tional money laun­der­ing con­spir­acy to hide mil­lions of dol­lars he earned from his for­eign po­lit­i­cal work in eastern Europe.

Manafort spokesman Ja­son Maloni took more shots at the pros­e­cu­tion’s fair­ness last week, sug­gest­ing its tac­tics vi­o­lated Manafort’s con­sti­tu­tional rights. And af­ter Gates’ guilty plea, Manafort him­self waded into the de­bate de­spite Jack­son’s gag or­der, main­tain­ing his in­no­cence against “un­true piled-up charges.”

At­tack­ing the pros­e­cu­tion is com­mon in cases like this, but for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment pros­e­cu­tor David We­in­stein said judges shouldn’t be an­tag­o­nized.

“If you con­tinue to thumb your nose at the sys­tem it­self,” he said, “that’s go­ing to have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the way the judge treats any state­ments you make.”

Down­ing did not re­turn a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment. Maloni de­clined com­ment.

Paul Manafort

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