Judge Jails Ex-Trump Campaign Chair Manafort

A federal judge on Friday sent President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to prison for tampering with witnesses while out on bail.

Manafort was free on $10 million unsecured bail since he was first indicted last October by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged collusion with the Trump campaign.

He is one of 20 people charged by special counsel Robert Mueller and the first former Trump associate to go to prison in connection with the investigation.

In a tweet Friday afternoon, President Trump said: “Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob. What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair!”

Manafort appeared in court to plead not guilty to new charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with his efforts to influence the testimony of two potential witnesses in his case.

Federal district judge Amy Berman Jackson, citing the new charges, granted a motion filed last week by Mueller, to revoke his bail and send him to prison while he awaits trial in September.

Manafort was escorted out of the court room by deputies as he waved to his wife.

The latest indictment against him, issued by a grand jury last week, accused Manafort, 69, and a business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, 48, of “repeatedly” contacting two unidentified people in an effort to sway their testimony.   The contacts took place between February and April of this year.

WATCH: Trump on Manafort’s legal woes

According to prosecutors, the two potential witnesses worked with Manafort in enlisting a group of former European officials to lobby both European officials and members of Congress on Ukraine’s behalf.

Defense lawyers, saying Manafort was unaware  the two people were cooperating with the special counsel, painted the contacts as innocuous.  They asked that prosecutors provide a list of people Manafort should not be contacting while on bail.

“A clear no-contact role will solve the problem,” one of Manafort’s lawyers said.  “He can be put in a position where conditions can be met.”

But prosecutors argued that given Manafort’s track record of flouting his bail conditions, no new terms would ensure compliance.

“We’re in a very different situation,” said Andrew Weissmann, one of Mueller’s prosecutors.  “Today, we’re talking about obstruction while on bail.  Mr. Manafort has absolutely violated the terms of his release by committing a crime while on bail.”

Judge Jackson said she had to “wrestle” with whether to revoke Manafort’s bail, but in the end she said she could not keep him free.

 “You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,” she said.

 

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