Paul Manafort is accusing government officials of leaking information, including some falsehoods, about him to the news media in an effort to bias jurors in his two upcoming criminal trials.
In a filing Monday evening in Alexandria federal court, the former Trump campaign manager asked for a hearing on what his attorneys describe as a “leaks” campaign that began in the fall of 2016.
Manafort faces charges in Alexandria and in D.C. federal court from the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Government officials or agents intentionally provided false information to media outlets, knowing that the information would be widely reported and that the disclosures would unfairly prejudice Mr. Manafort in his efforts to defend himself,” Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle wrote.
Downing and Zehnle requested that Judge T.S. Ellis III schedule a hearing this month at which attorneys for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will be compelled to address the leaks.
A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.
“An investigation could be done expeditiously,” the defense attorneys argue, given that congressional committees and the Justice Department are looking into leaks of information related to the Russia inquiry.
Manafort’s attorneys do not specifically accuse the special counsel’s office of being the source of any leaks. In fact, they argue that the leaks that came before Mueller’s appointment last May were part of a “false narrative” designed in part to “garner support” for the creation of a special counsel investigation. But they say the disclosures also were “clearly intended to unfairly prejudice the jury pool” by repeatedly linking Manafort to Russia.
The attorneys cite seven media reports referencing the investigation of Manafort’s ties to a Russian-backed Ukrainian politician between October 2016 and August 2017. The first indictment against Manafort, accusing him of conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges in connection with his work in Ukraine, was unsealed in October 2017.
Manafort’s attorneys list the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Associated Press, BuzzFeed and the L.A. Times as media outlets they claim published leaked information. The motion says those outlets are a “small sampling” of those it contends have received such information.
In particular, Manafort’s attorneys note a New York Times report from February 2017 that a phone call was intercepted between Manafort and someone in the Russian government or intelligence world. The story was sourced to “four current and former American officials.”
Manafort’s attorneys said they have asked for any material showing surveillance or interception of conversations between their client and Russian government or intelligence officials and have been told that none exists.
During testimony before a congressional committee last year, former FBI director James B. Comey said the Times article was inaccurate. “In the main, it was not true,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Times declined to comment Tuesday on the motion. The Times has previously stood by the report, with Executive Editor Dean Baquet saying in a statement that the paper “had numerous sources confirming this story.”
The attorneys also note reporting in advance of the decision of Richard Gates, Manafort’s former business partner, to plead guilty to related charges.
Manafort will face trial in Virginia in July and in D.C. in September.
He is set to appear in the Virginia court Friday on other motions arguing that the case against him should be dismissed as outside the special counsel’s purview.