Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Wednesday morning in federal court to a rewritten set of charges that had been levied against him late last week.
The charges in the US District Court for the District of Columbia include allegations of money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements about his foreign lobbying.
Prosecutors and the defense agreed on a September 17 trial start, which means the trial involving the onetime leader of Trump’s campaign brought by the special counsel will be just before the November midterm elections, where Democrats are already expected to do well.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson acknowledged that additional federal criminal charges Manafort faces in Virginia, which are based on some overlapping allegations involving his foreign bank accounts and income from his Ukrainian work, could complicate the trial preparation, and could cause Manafort’s lawyers and the prosecutors to argue about the same evidence twice. But Manafort has said he’d like to keep the two cases separate, as is his right as a defendant.
Public relations warning
Berman Jackson also reiterated a previous order she gave to both sides of the case not to make public comments that could prejudice a jury. She was responding to a statement that a public relations representative for Manafort issued on his behalf Friday.
That statement said Manafort would maintain his innocence even in light of his business partner Rick Gates’ guilty plea. Gates pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy with Manafort and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of Congress about Ukraine.
The gag order “applies to you,” Berman Jackson said Wednesday, speaking directly to Manafort. She encouraged him to include his lawyer in any public relations decisions. His lawyer, Kevin Downing, said they might now try to challenge the terms.
The judge previously reprimanded Gates after he taped a video message thanking supporters at the launch of his legal defense fund in December. And Manafort toed the line of the gag order three months ago, she said previously, when he ghostwrote an op-ed defending himself in a Ukrainian English-language newspaper.
Manafort back in court Friday
Manafort faces a second federal indictment in Virginia on 18 criminal counts of bank fraud and tax-related crimes. He is scheduled to be in court in Alexandria on Friday to tell the judge there how he will plead. Prosecutors have asked the Virginia-based federal court to drop related charges there against Gates following his plea deal.
Manafort’s next hearing in the Washington court will be April 19.
It’s been a busy week for both Manafort and Gates. After Manafort’s father-in-law died on Saturday, Berman Jackson allowed him to travel to Long Island on Monday and Tuesday for the wake, funeral and burial. She shared condolences with Manafort, who was accompanied by his wife, Kathleen, in court Wednesday, at the start of his hearing. Manafort is still under house arrest at his apartment in Alexandria.
Gates travel allowed
Gates, who lives in Richmond, is preparing for his own special travel schedule, though for a different reason: to take his four children to Boston the week of March 5 to learn about American history and the Revolutionary War. Though Gates is not under house arrest, he is unable to travel outside of the DC and Richmond metro areas. The prosecutors and the judge agreed that Gates could take the spring break trip.
The judge is also facing a request to drop the requirement that Gates wear a GPS monitor, which he’s had since his arrest, and to let him travel more freely between Richmond and Washington. In recent months, Gates has had to clear in advance any trips he makes from Richmond to DC, where he’s met with lawyers and appeared in court. Yet now his plea terms “require his presence in Washington, DC, often on short notice” to work with the special counsel’s office and to consult with his attorney. Gates, in his request to the court Wednesday afternoon, said the consequences of violating his plea agreement would be enough to prevent him from fleeing.
Meanwhile, Gates’ plea deal requires that he continue to cooperate with prosecutors. Gates’ attorney Tom Green was spotted at Mueller’s office Tuesday by CNN.