Late-2018 Start Seen for Trial of Ex-Trump Campaign Chairman

A mid-May date proposed by prosecutors for the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an associate is too soon, a federal judge said Tuesday, signaling that the politically charged proceeding could be pushed back to later in the year.

Prosecutors for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the Russia investigation, had indicated in court papers filed last week that they would seek a trial date of May 14 for Manafort and former business partner Rick Gates. They told U.S. District Court Judge Amy Jackson on Tuesday that they needed about three weeks to try the case. 

But defense attorneys for Manafort and Gates argued that Mueller’s office had not presented them with all the evidence it possessed against their clients and that the proposed date would not give them enough time to go through everything.

“We need the time and are the least prepared of anyone here,” an attorney for Gates said. 

Judge concurs

Jackson agreed, saying the trial could be pushed back to as late as September or October.

“The discovery needs to get done and motions have to be filed,” Jackson said during a pre-trial hearing — known as a status conference — meeting with prosecutors and defense attorneys. 

In October, a federal grand jury indicted Manafort and Gates on 12 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, making false statements and other charges in connection with their lobbying for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russia political party. They’ve pleaded not guilty. 

The charges are unrelated to the Mueller investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and allegations of collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.

Manafort remains under house confinement. But Jackson later issued an order releasing Gates from home confinement, saying he had complied with her bond requirements.

Manafort’s attorneys filed a civil lawsuit this month against Mueller and the Justice Department, challenging the special counsel’s appointment and seeking the dismissal of the indictment. A prosecutor told Jackson that the special counsel intended to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the “proper procedure” to challenge the charges is through her court. Jackson gave the two sides until Friday to decide whether they want that case transferred and reassigned to her. 

The parties agreed to hold their next status conference with Jackson on February 14. 

Guilty pleas

In addition to bringing charges against Manafort and Gates, Mueller’s team has secured guilty pleas from two other former Trump associates.

In early October, George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy consultant for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty of lying to federal agents about his secret efforts to secure a meeting between Trump and Russian officials.

In December, former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the FBI about a series of phone conversations he had with Russia’s former ambassador to Washington during Trump’s transition.

Both are cooperating with Mueller’s team.

The special counsel has interviewed several current and former White House officials in connection with the Russia investigation. The New York Times reported Tuesday that former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon had been subpoenaed to appear before the federal grand jury investigating the Russian election meddling.

Bannon on Tuesday met behind closed doors with members of the House Intelligence Committee as part of the panel’s own investigation of the Russian election meddling.

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