Judge delays Manafort trial until July 31

A federal judge on Monday agreed to delay the criminal trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation Mueller asks for delay in Gates sentencing: filing Mueller targets Stone in final push MORE after his lawyers argued they needed more time to review a trove of documents recently provided by government prosecutors. 

Manafort’s trial was expected to begin on Wednesday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., but the ruling from Judge T.S. Ellis will delay it until July 31. 

The trial will be the first in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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Manafort’s lawyers argued that they needed extra time to review more than 120,000 pages of new documents provided by federal prosecutors. Roughly a third of them, his defense lawyers said, were taken from devices belonging to former Trump campaign aide and longtime Manafort associate Richard Gates — who was initially charged with Manafort but is now cooperating in Mueller’s probe.

“These 120,000 pages are really at the heart of the issue,” Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said Monday, according to USA Today.

In addition to granting the delay, Ellis also granted Mueller’s request to grant immunity for five witnesses in Manafort’s trial. 

Manafort has been indicted on 16 counts of tax and bank fraud that also include charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Manafort’s team had hoped to delay the trial longer. 

Jay Nanavati, one of Manafort’s attorney, argued in court filings that more time is needed to prepare for the trial given that his client was being held in the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va., about two hours from D.C., on charges pending in a separate case against Manafort in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

He said the facility is about 100 miles from his office, and that it takes more than two hours each way by car. Additionally, no electronic communication is permitted between Manafort and his lawyers.

“More specifically, Mr. Manafort’s current detention has made meetings with his attorneys to prepare his defense far more infrequent and enormously time-consuming compared to when he remained on house arrest and subject to GPS monitoring in Alexandria, Virginia, pursuant to this Court’s release order," Nanavati said in the filing.

D.C. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Manafort jailed after Mueller accused him of tampering with witness testimony.

When Ellis ordered Manafort be transferred from the Northern Neck Regional Jail to the Alexandria Detention Center on July 10, Manafort’s attorney argued against the move, saying moving him would present a safety risk, and that it would be challenging for Manafort to adjust to a new place of confinement two weeks before his trial.

Nanavati also said more time was needed to allow the media scrutiny of Manafort to die down.

“Mr. Manafort has been subject to negative press since the leaking of the Special Counsel’s investigation more than a year ago, however, the recent bail revocation and his subsequent detention has exacerbated the situation,” he said. “Time is needed to allow passions to cool and to permit the seating of an impartial jury."

Updated at 3:53 p.m.