Manafort requests Virginia trial be moved, citing media coverage

Manafort requests Virginia trial be moved, citing media coverage
© Greg Nash

Former Trump campaign head Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortOur Constitution is under attack by Attorney General William Barr Bannon trial date set in alleged border wall scam Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE is requesting that his trial be moved from Alexandria, Va., to Roanoke, Va., over concerns that widespread media coverage of the allegations against him may have biased the juror pool.

Manafort’s attorneys made the request in a filing for his trial in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Friday, arguing that a change of venue is necessary for his Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury.

The court document notes that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia has “dominated the news cycle in the United States” and that “a significant portion of the media coverage has focused on Mr. Manafort.”

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Manafort’s legal team cited his former role as head of the Trump campaign, Mueller’s “high profile” probe and a judge’s recent order sending Manafort to jail for allegedly tampering with a witness as reasons to change the venue of the trial.

The document also noted President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE’s tweet last month claiming Manafort unfairly received a “tough sentence.” The filing said that the tweet “incorrectly suggest[ed] that Mr. Manafort had been sentenced for committing a crime.”

The attorneys said media coverage of Manafort “has been most intense in and around Washington, D.C.,” noting Alexandria’s close proximity to D.C., and argued that the trial "may be the rare case where a juror’s predisposition may directly tie to their vote in the last presidential election."

Roanoke residents, the attorneys noted, have a lower degree of broadband access than those in Alexandria. Attorneys argued that media consumption is less intense in Roanoke.

"It is not a stretch to expect that voters who supported Secretary Clinton would be predisposed against Mr. Manafort or that voters who supported President Trump would be less inclined toward the Special Counsel,” the document reads, highlighting the high percentage of Alexandria residents who voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Momentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina MORE over Trump in the 2016 election.

Clinton won Roanoke with 56.5 percent of the vote, while she won 75.6 percent of voters in Alexandria. Trump captured 37.5 percent of Roanoke voters and 17.5 percent in Alexandria.

Manafort also requested that the court use a jury questionnaire and that potential jurors face a preliminary questioning about Manafort, in addition to a “substantial increase” in the number of potential jurors summoned for the trial.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges of bank fraud, money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.