- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2018

A federal judge revoked Paul Manafort’s bail Friday and ordered him to remain locked up until his trial later this year, punishing him for allegations that he tried to tamper with witnesses.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama-appointee, said Mr. Manafort had been taking a cavalier approach to the court proceedings against him, and she said she was putting an end to it.

“I cannot turn a blind eye to these allegations,” she said.

SEE ALSO: Trump defends Manafort after bail revoked: ‘Very unfair!’

Mr. Manafort, who was a top official in President Trump’s campaign, has been accused of money laundering and working as a foreign agent without reporting it to U.S. authorities.

He was also charged this month with witness tampering by special counsel Robert Mueller, who said he tried to contact several witnesses to get stories straight from Feb. 24 through April 4 while out on bond.

In one exchange, Mr. Manafort called a witness on Feb. 24 while the witness was in Italy. The call lasted under two minutes.

During the call, the government’s attorney said, Mr. Manafort told the witness, “I need to give you a heads up about Hapsburg group,” which is a group of European politicians that lobby on behalf of Ukraine in the United States.

“Have you seen any article about Hapsburg?” Mr. Manafort allegedly asked the witness. “It’s important that we talk.”

The witness subsequently hung up the phone as Mr. Manafort was speaking, according to the government’s attorney.

Another witness was contacted by a Manafort associate who said the defendant was looking to share with the witness his own version of “what’s going on.”

“There’s a history of deception on behalf of Mr. Manafort in this case,” the government’s attorney told the judge Friday, arguing Mr. Manafort has lied to his accountant, the IRS and the federal government.

But Mr. Manafort’s attorney, Richard William Westling, said the contacts with the potential witnesses did not include threats or promises, and that the order against contacting witnesses was made by Judge Thomas Selby Ellis III, who is overseeing Mr. Manafort’s case on bank fraud charges in the Eastern District of Virginia, which is set for trial in late July.

“Clarity is the solution,” Mr. Westling said, urging the judge to issue a more detailed no contact order. “Remedy of revocation seems very harsh.”

But Judge Jackson said she can consider Judge Ellis’s order when weighing whether to revoke Mr. Manafort’s bail, and that she didn’t see any other option than to detain him.

The judge did note the majority of cases where a defendant’s bail had been revoked occurred if he or she made a threat against a witness, but the judge went on to cite a handful of cases where courts have taken away bond in the absence of such threats.

Mr. Manafort may not have threatened a witness directly, but he is a threat to the court system, the judge said.

“This is not middle school. I can’t take his cellphone,” she said.

Mr. Manafort will be detained until his trial in Washington D.C., which is currently set to begin in September, roughly two months after his trial in Virginia.

Jeffrey Swartz, a professor at WMU-Cooley Law School Tampa Bay, said the pressure on Mr. Manafort is “immense” and his lawyers could be talking with prosecutors following Friday’s hearing.

Manafort’s lawyers tried to turn lemons into lemonade by asking the judge to order the government to disclose the names of all the witnesses they intend to call at trial, something the Federal discovery rules do not require,” Mr. Swartz said.

“The stated reason was so that Manafort could stay out on bond knowing exactly to whom he should not talk. No one was buying that,” he added.

The president addressed Mr. Manafort’s case Friday morning, telling reporters that he feels badly for his former campaign chairman.

“I think a lot of it’s very unfair,” Mr. Trump said. “Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. I feel a little badly about it — they went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago. Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.”

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Trump tweeted:

Mr. Manafort was campaign chairman for Mr. Trump for two months in the summer of 2016 and had a lesser role in the campaign before being promoted to chairman.

Though Mr. Manafort’s attorneys could appeal Friday’s decision to the circuit court to reinstate his bail, legal experts say it’s unlikely that they will because trial courts are given sound discretion on bond matters.

“His attorneys’ time would be better spent preparing for trial or seeking a resolution to the charges (making a deal),” Mr. Swartz said in an email to The Washington Times.

Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

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