Paul Manafort ghost-wrote draft of op-ed with colleague thought to have ties to Russian intelligence

Updated Dec 4, 2017 5:46 PM EST

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team says Paul Manafort and a Russian colleague were ghost-writing an English-language editorial about Manafort’s work for Ukraine, and that colleague is “assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service,” according to documents filed by the special counsel. 

The government said in a brief that the ghost-written draft op-ed would constitute a violation of the court’s order banning statements to the press. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson has already reprimanded Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, for talking to the media after Manafort appeared in court for his indictment.  “This is a criminal trial, not a public relations campaign,” she said in November. 

“The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication (much less for Manafort and his long-time associate to ghostwrite it in another’s name),” the special counsel wrote. “It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts.”

As a result of Manafort’s actions, which the government says show that he intended to “violate or circumvent” the court’s orders, the government argued that his bail package is no longer sufficient. Manafort, the former chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, has offered $12 million in assets to avoid house arrest, but the court has determined he is too much of a flight risk, given his wealth and contacts overseas. Manafort also has three passports.

The special counsel isn’t asking the court to send Manafort back to prison, but it did register its opposition to Manafort’s motion to modify the conditions of his release. Should the court agree to Manafort’s motion, though, the government asked for a fully secured bond, the posting of more of his assets and full-time GPS monitoring. 

There is also a note in the filing that says the government is asking the court if it can submit “documentary evidence” under seal, in order to avoid having the full draft of the op-ed be published. On Nov. 30, the government alerted Manafort’s lawyers to the fact that he was drafting the op-ed and was subsequently “assured that steps would be taken to make sure it was no longer going to be published.”

This is a developing story. 

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