Prosecutors: Manafort recently collaborated with Kremlin-tied operative

Special counsel Robert Mueller asked a federal judge to deny Paul Manafort’s request to release him from house arrest, pointing to a draft of an op-ed the former Trump campaign manager ghostwrote with an associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to court filings.

A prosecutor working on Mueller’s team argued that the request should be denied because the op-ed, if it had been published, would’ve violated a court order not to publicly discuss the case.


Prosecutors say Manafort and the colleague — who is “assessed to have ties” with Russian intelligence — intended to publish the piece under a different name in an attempt to influence public opinion about Manafort’s previous work in Ukraine.
“Even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would be a violation of this Court’s November 8 Order if it had been published,” the prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
“The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of defendant Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication (much less for Manafort and his long-time associate to ghostwrite it in another’s name).”
Manafort and the individual, who prosecutors said is based in Russia, began drafting the op-ed as late as late week. The Associated Press and Reuters first reported the court filings.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Oleg Voloshyn, who previously served as a spokesman for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs under former President Viktor Yanukovych, is taking ownership for the drafted op-ed.
Voloshyn challenged the claim by Mueller’s team and maintained that he wrote the unpublished document on his own initiative, saying he ran it by Manafort to seek his input on the piece as well as fact check details in the piece. 
Manafort has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing related to his business dealings in Ukraine.
Manfort’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manafort has been under house arrest since being charged with money laundering and tax fraud last month, restricting his ability to travel from his Virginia residence with very few exceptions.

Mueller’s appeal to the judge comes after Politico reported last week that his house arrest could be lifted under the agreement following an $11 million bail deal reached with Mueller’s team of prosecutors. 

The prosecutors argued that in light of their discovery of the op-ed draft, the bail deal they made should not hold up in court.

“Because bail is substantially about trust — in particular, whether the Court can trust that a defendant will abide by the combination of conditions designed to assure his appearance as required, and because the newly discovered facts cast doubt on Manafort’s willingness to comply with this Court’s Orders, Manafort’s proposed bail package does not provide the reasonable assurance required by the Bail Reform Act,” the prosecutors wrote.

Both Manafort and his associate Richard Gates pleaded not guilty to all charges from Mueller’s probe in October, after the 31-page indictment was unsealed.

A third former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, also pleaded guilty to charges of lying to FBI agents in the investigation.

Manafort turned himself in to the FBI after the charges, which include conspiracy against the U.S. and using the laundered money to buy goods in the country — charges that relate to his work on behalf of a Russian-backed political party in Ukraine. 

The indictment did not point to any of Manafort’s work for Trump’s campaign, which took place between March 2016 until his ouster in August 2016. 

Mueller and his team are broadly investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, including whether Trump campaign aides colluded with the Kremlin. 

Mueller, on Friday, brought charges against Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with top Kremlin officials. 

This story was updated Dec. 5 at 7:49 p.m.

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