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Paul Manafort ordered to jail after witness-tampering charges

By Spencer S. Hsu and Ellen Nakashima

WASHINGTON - Paul Manafort will be jailed after being accused of witness tampering while awaiting trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller III.

The order to imprison President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager came Friday in a federal court hearing after Manafort had been asking to post a $10 million bond and end seven months of home detention.

It was not immediately clear when Manafort would be imprisoned or where. Proceedings before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia were ongoing.

The order marked the latest fall for the political power broker and confidant of Republican presidents dating to George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Prosecutors alleged that by committing a new crime while on release, Manafort violated terms of his home confinement in Alexandria, Virginia, and they asked the judge to revoke or revise it.

Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to all charges in what prosecutors say was a broader conspiracy to launder more than $30 million over a decade of undisclosed lobbying for a former pro-Russian politician and party in Ukraine.

The case against him includes failing to register in the U.S. as a lobbyist for a foreign government. On June 8, he and a Russian business associate were charged with obstruction of justice after prosecutors say they tried to persuade two potential witnesses to tell investigators the Ukraine lobbying effort did not include activity in the United States.

Manafort’s attorneys have denied the tampering allegations and accused prosecutors of conjuring charges to pressure him to flip his plea and turn against Trump and his associates.

Manafort faced arraignment Friday on the obstruction counts and is set for trial in Washington in September over the allegations of secret lobbying. He also faces a federal trial in Virginia in July for related tax and bank fraud charges brought as prosecutors reviewed his financial dealings.

He had been confined to his home on electronic monitoring and other restrictions since he was first indicted Oct. 27 during Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Most of the criminal counts relate to activity that preceded his time as Trump’s campaign manager, from March to August of 2016, when he resigned amid news reports that he had received secret cash payments for his Ukraine consulting.

Shortly before Manafort was due in court Friday, Trump spoke to reporters at an impromptu appearance and said “Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.”

Prosecutors had previously complained to the judge about Manafort’s behavior as he awaits trial. In December, they accused him of violating a court’s gag order by helping ghostwrite an op-ed piece defending his work in Ukraine for an English-language newspaper in Kiev.

Jackson, the judge, declined to punish Manafort then but warned she would likely consider similar actions in the future as a violation.

In asking for Manafort to be jailed, prosecutor Greg Andres said in court that there was a danger Manafort would continue to commit crimes.

“There is nothing on the record of this court that assures that Mr. Manafort will abide by (any ) conditions” of pre-trial release short of jail, Andres said.

As both sides discussed the witness tampering allegation, Richard Westling, an attorney for Manafort, urged the judge to consider options short of jail that could be added to the existing terms of his release “that can prevent this from occurring in the future.” He said a no-contact order with others in the case could achieve that result and said the current release terms had not explicitly included that restriction.

Andres replied that “it’s inconceivable that he (Manafort) doesn’t know that they’re potential witnesses.”

The fall indictment of Manafort and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates, marked the first public charges in the special counsel investigation. Gates, 46, pleaded guilty in February to lying to investigators and agreed to provide information in a cooperation deal with Mueller’s team.

Manafort has repeatedly declared his intention to fight the charges in both jurisdictions, with his lawyers saying that he is being wrongly prosecuted for financial activities that have nothing to do with collusion to affect the election.

Prosecutors have said that Manafort’s role in the campaign and long-standing ties to Russian-backed politicians, financiers and others merited investigation into whether any of them served as back channels to Russia.

The obstruction charges flow out of lobbying work in 2012 on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions.

A Manafort associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, also was charged with obstruction in connection with alleged approaches to witnesses. Kilimnik is believed to be in Moscow - and therefore probably safe from arrest because Russia does not extradite its citizens. Prosecutors have previously said Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence, which he denies.

The alleged coverup of the lobbying stems from work that prosecutors say Manafort, Kilimnik and others did with former European politicians, referred to informally as the “Hapsburg group,” to advocate on Ukraine’s behalf to U.S. and European officials.

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