Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and a colleague linked to Russian intelligence ghostwrote an op-ed about Mr Manafort’s work around the Ukraine even as Mr Manafort faced federal charges for concealing the proceeds from that work, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said.
As part of an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, Mr Mueller’s team has charged Mr Manafort and his associate Rick Gates with illegally concealing payments they received while working for various Ukrainian clients. Both men have denied any wrongdoing and called the charges unfounded.
According to a new court filing from Mr Mueller’s team, the legal cloud hanging over Mr Manafort has not prevented him from helping to pen an opinion piece about his Ukraine-related work.
The special counsel’s office alleged Mr Manafort was at work on the piece as recently as last week. And his coauthor, according to the new filing, “is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service”.
Mr Mueller’s team characterised the op-ed as an attempt by Mr Manafort to sway public opinion around his case, which it said violated an agreement to refrain from activities that could undermine a fair trial.
The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of defendant 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 filing argues.
Citing that alleged violation, Mr Mueller’s team wants to toughen the terms of Mr Manafort’s bail package and deny his motion to have his house arrest lifted — a change that would require a judge’s approval.
A spokesman for Mr Manafort did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The erstwhile head of Mr Trump’s insurgent presidential campaign has pleaded not guilty to a 12-count federal indictment alleging Mr Manafort and Mr Gates reaped tens of millions of dollars from their work as unregistered agents of the Ukrainian government and a pair of opposition parties.
The indictment alleges that the two “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts”. It accuses Mr Manafort of laundering more than $18 million that he concealed from the US government.
An attorney for Mr Manafort, Kevin Downing, discounted those charges as “ridiculous,” telling reporters after his client pleaded not guilty that “there is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government”.
Mr Mueller’s investigation has already produced guilty pleas from two former Trump campaign aides. Former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have both admitted to lying to FBI agents about their contacts with Russian emissaries.