Special Counsel Tells Court Manafort Ghostwrote Op-Ed With Russian Colleague

Frederick Owens
December 5, 2017

While facing several felony charges, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been working on an op-ed essay with a longtime colleague "assessed to have ties" to a Russian intelligence service, according to court papers filed Monday by prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller.

"Because Manafort has now taken actions that reflect an intention to violate or circumvent the court's existing orders, at a time one would expect particularly scrupulous adherence, the government submits that the proposed bail package is insufficient reasonably to assure his appearance required", prosecutors stated.

In the four-page filing Monday, prosecutor Andrew Weissman urged the judge to reject the bail deal, arguing that Manafort and a Russian colleague have been secretly ghostwriting an English-language editorial that appeared to defend Manafort's work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine. Manafort allegedly owed Deripaska $19 million for an investment the oligarch made in the Ukrainian TV company Black Sea Cable, a business venture which fell through.

The person asked not to be identified because the case is ongoing. However, Manafort has had a long-standing Russian employee named Konstantin Kilimnik who ran Manafort's office in Kiev during the 10 years he did consulting work there. Manafort is now under house arrest and faces charges including fraud and money laundering.

Both men are now under home confinement as their lawyers try to work out new bail conditions with the special counsel and the court.

Manafort, 68, and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates, 45, have both pleaded not guilty to charges filed October 30.

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The piece "clearly was undertaken to influence the public's opinion of defendant Manafort", prosecutors wrote, noting there would be no other reason for Manafort and the colleague to have it published under someone else's name.

"Even if the ghost-written op-ed were entirely accurate, fair and balanced, it would be violation of this court's November 8 order if it had been published", prosecutors argued.

Manafort ultimately never published the opinion piece, after prosecutors reached out to his attorneys to alert them, they said in the filing.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has abruptly withdrawn support for a bail agreement he struck last week with Paul Manafort's legal team.

Although the contents of the editorial are not expected to be made public, the filing indicates that it focused on Manafort's political work in the Ukraine and specifies that the associate with whom Manafort was working "is now based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service".

"Because bail is substantially about trust - in particular, whether the Court can trust that a defendant will abide by the combination of conditions created to assure his appearance as required ... - and because the newly discovered facts cast doubt on Manafort's willingness to comply with this Court's Orders, Manafort's proposed bail package does not provide the reasonable assurance required by the Bail Reform Act", they wrote.

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