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Prosecutors say longtime Manafort colleague has 'ties' to Russian intelligence

05 December 2017, 02:54 | Darnell Patrick

Associated Press

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The special counsel's office, which is investigating whether anyone in Trump's orbit helped Russia interfere in last year's presidential campaign, said Manafort helped draft the editorial in recent days, working with a Russian who has ties to that country's intelligence services.

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.

Prosecutors did not describe the op-ed draft in much detail.

The person asked not to be identified because the case is ongoing.

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

Manafort and top aide Rick Gates have pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. Because of his work on the editorial, Mueller on Monday requested that Manafort's bail package be modified to include "a fully secured bond, the posting of assets not subject to forfeiture" - which include his Bridgehampton and Baxter Street properties - and "full-time Global Positioning System monitoring". He has been confined to his home while he works out a bond arrangement with the government. Last week, Manafort's attorneys said they had reached such an agreement with Mueller's team.

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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". "The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public's opinion of defendant Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication".

Mueller's team asked that the bail package be made tougher in light of Manafort's actions, including a requirement that he put up more assets and be subject to fulltime Global Positioning System monitoring.

It still needed the court's approval, but Mueller's office said in its filing on Monday that the government no longer supported the deal.

"It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts", the prosecutors added.

"Manafort worked on the draft with a long-time Russian colleague of Manafort's, who is now based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service", he added, stressing that "even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced" it would be a violation of the court's order to parties and counsel to "refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case".



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