Egypt Independent

Former Trump campaign chief Manafort sent to jail



U.S. President Donald Trump’s former election campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was sent to jail pending trial on Friday after being charged with witness tampering, the latest episode in his long fall from grace.

Manafort, a long-time Republican operative and businessman, is a target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, and has been indicted on mostly financial-related charges, including conspiring to launder money and defraud the United States.

He pleaded not guilty on those charges and had been on home confinement in Virginia, required to wear an electronic monitoring device.

Mueller last week charged him with witness tampering in the case. Manafort pleaded not guilty to that charge on Friday but U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington revoked his bail, sending him to jail.

“I have no appetite for this … But in the end, I cannot turn a blind eye,” she said. “You’ve abused the trust placed in you.”

Manafort, a long-time Republican operative and businessman, is a target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, and has been indicted on mostly financial-related charges, including conspiring to launder money and defraud the United States.

He pleaded not guilty on those charges and had been on home confinement in Virginia, required to wear an electronic monitoring device.

Mueller last week charged him with witness tampering in the case. Manafort pleaded not guilty to that charge on Friday but U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington revoked his bail, sending him to jail.

“I have no appetite for this … But in the end, I cannot turn a blind eye,” she said. “You’ve abused the trust placed in you.”

Manafort resigned in August 2016 following a news report he had received possibly illegal payments from Yanukovych’s political party.

Hours after Manafort’s bail was revoked on Friday, Mueller’s office told the court it would introduce evidence at trial that Manafort sought to circumvent Ukrainian public procurement law by masking the size of payments to a U.S. law firm that wrote a report aimed at discrediting Yanukovych’s chief political rival.

A June 8 indictment accused Manafort and a longtime aide, Konstantin Kilimnik, with tampering with witnesses about their past lobbying for Ukraine. Kilimnik, whom Mueller’s office says has ties to Russian intelligence, could not be reached for comment.

The indictment accused them of attempting to call, text and send encrypted messages starting in February to two people from a political discussion group – the so-called Hapsburg Group – that worked with Manafort to promote Ukraine’s interests in a bid to sway their testimony.

Manafort’s lawyers have argued that the evidence suggesting he tampered with witnesses is thin.

Mueller’s filing said he may also introduce evidence showing that Manafort falsely represented business expenses on his tax returns and that Manafort, his business partner Richard Gates and Kilimnik structured loans between Cypriot companies they controlled to avoid recognizing those funds as taxable income.

Legal experts say Mueller wants to keep applying pressure on Manafort to plead guilty and assist prosecutors as Gates did and is cooperating with the probe after cutting a plea deal.

“Either he can double down in his resolve to fight it or it’s the last straw and it breaks his will and he decides to work out a plea bargain,” Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor, told Reuters.