- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2018

Whether Paul Manafort remains in home confinement or goes to prison rests on the content of several brief communications he conducted last winter with a former business associate.

Mr. Manafort’s supporters say the evidence presented by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is far short of what is needed to prove witness tampering.

President Trump’s former attorney John Dowd said Mr. Manafort has a right to tell witnesses what his defense is.

“This is America, where we respect rights, not undermine them with frivolous prejudicial motions designed to intimidate,” Mr. Dowd told The Washington Times.”

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann filed a motion June 4 asking U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke or adjust Mr. Manafort’s $10 million bail.

A Manafort friend asserted to The Times that “It’s a weak case” and asked why Mr. Weissmann is filing the brief months after the messaging.

Mr. Dowd told The Times that the president’s former campaign manager did nothing wrong.

“He has every right to communicate with witnesses,” Mr. Dowd said. “If witnesses don’t like it, tough. He has every right to communicate with them. That’s how he prepares his case. This is another Andrew Weissmann dirty trick. That’s all it is.

“[Mr. Manafort] has a First Amendment right. He has a Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to prepare his case, including telling everybody what his defense is,” Mr. Dowd said. “Mueller and Weissmann need to understand this is not Russia.”

Mr. Weissmann is noted for employing tough courtroom tactics and supporting Democrats via campaign contributions. He oversaw a nighttime FBI raid on Mr. Manafort’s Alexandria condo that critics said was more suited for a violent offender than for what they suspect to be a white-color criminal.

The Weissmann witness tampering charge revolves around the Hapsburg Group, which Mr. Manafort and associates formed to lobby for Ukrainian politicians. The Mueller indictment accuses Mr. Manafort of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not filing with the Justice Department as a lobbyist for a foreign country.

According to the Weissmann brief, Mr. Manafort telephoned a former Hapsburg associate identified as “D1,” who ended the call and at some point reported the contact to Mr. Mueller’s team.

Mr. Manafort also sent an encrypted message that said, “This is Paul.” He then sent a message containing a news article on Hapsburg. A follow-up message said, “We should talk. … [M]ade clear [Hapsburg] worked in Europe.”

An unidentified Manafort associate also reached out to a witness identified as “D2.” Nothing in the brief said the associate tried to influence D2.

Mr. Weissmann said the message amounted to tampering because evidence showed Hapsburg lobbied in Washington, not just Europe. He cited previous cases to Judge Jackson that seemed far more severe than Mr. Manafort’s brief messages. Some of the cases involved a person threatening a witness.

He asked the judge to find probable cause that “Manafort violated his conditions of release by committing the federal crime of witness tampering.”

Said Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni: “Mr. Manafort is innocent, and nothing about this latest allegation changes our defense. We will do our talking in court.”

Kevin Downing, Mr. Manafort’s attorney, said at the outset of the case that the federal government has rarely filed charges for failing to file under FARA.

Mr. Downing is due to file a counterargument by Friday, with a hearing slated for June 15.

The Mueller team is accusing Mr. Manafort of laundering millions of dollars from Ukraine, where he did political consulting, and of failing to report the money on his income tax returns.

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