The federal judge overseeing the criminal trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and business partner Rick Gates imposed a gag order in the case Wednesday, ordering all parties, including potential witnesses, not to make statements that might prejudice jurors.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington issued the order five days after signaling her intention to do so. In a two-page order, Jackson said she had received no objections by the Tuesday deadline she had set for the parties to weigh in.
Jackson barred any prejudicial statements "to the media or public settings" to safeguard the defendants receiving a fair trial, "and to ensure that the Court has the ability to seat a jury that has not been tainted by pretrial publicity."
The ruling applied to all participants in the case, including the parties, potential witnesses and attorneys.
Manafort, 68, and Gates, 45, remain under home confinement on pledges to pay $10 million and $5 million, respectively, if they fail to return to court after pleading not guilty Oct. 30 to charges of conspiracy, money laundering and making false lobbyist registration statements in connection with their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.
The indictment unsealed that same day included the first criminal allegations disclosed by the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which is investigating possible Russian influence in U.S. political affairs including the 2016 election of President Trump.
In court last Friday, Jackson, a 2011 appointee of President Barack Obama, noted extraordinary public interest in the case, and implicitly rebuked one of Manafort's attorneys, Kevin Downing, after he gave a statement defending his client to reporters outside the courthouse.
"I expect counsel to make their statements in the courtroom and in pleadings, and not on the courthouse steps," Jackson said Friday.
Jackson's order is consistent with the local rules in federal court in Washington in widely publicized cases, she noted. The rules are targeted at comments likely to affect the outcome of a trial or the impartiality of jurors.
Jackson on Monday said she was inclined to release the men from home confinement once they work out a deal to disclose assets and secure a bond package for their release. She added that if she did lift home confinement, she would tend to keep other restrictions, such as barring international travel, but would wait to see what terms both sides reached.
"If financial arrangements are made that are satisfactory to the government, I am inclined to impose a less restrictive regime," but "we're going to have to wait for consideration of further information," Jackson said
Jackson said she was also was considering ordering the men to stay away from transportation facilities, meet a curfew and continue GPS monitoring. Jackson set a Dec. 11 hearing to schedule a trial, which could be as early as April.