Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is currently under house arrest pending a trial. Manafort’s lawyers were close to completing a bail deal with the special counsel’s office that would have allowed Manafort to travel to a limited number of states, freeing him from house arrest and GPS monitoring, in exchange for Manafort putting up $11.5 million worth of his real estate as collateral. But then Manafort got into his own way by ghostwriting an op-ed piece, according to CNN, “with a Russian who has ties to the Russian intelligence service, Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Muller’s team said Monday”. Manafort’s action violates a court order.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
Paul Manafort ghost-wrote an editorial about his political work in Ukraine, violating a court order, according to a new court filing from the special counsel’s office. The allegation was disclosed Monday as the reason the special counsel was backing out of a deal on bail with Manafort’s lawyers.
According to Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Muller’s team the op-ed Manafort was ghostwriting concerned the political work he did on behalf of the Ukraine, which is relevant to the money-laundering and foreign lobbying charges he now faces. Manafort was apparently working on the English language op-ed piece as late as last Thursday.
The work on the op-ed piece violates a court order from early November that stipulated that all parties (Manafort, his lawyers, and the prosecution) “refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.” According to CNN, today’s statement from prosecutors indicated that:
“Even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would be a violation of this Court’s November 8 Order if it had been published. 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).”
Here is coverage by CNN of the story in which Representative Jackie Speier called Manafort’s ghostwriting effort “Stunningly stupid.”
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) December 4, 2017
Today’s filing by prosecutors asks the court to revisit the bail agreement reached last week between Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and Paul Manafort’s lawyers. The court had not yet finalized the deal, so it is still possible for the special counsel’s office to withdraw their offer, as they did today. Prosecutors have asked that the court seal records related to the ghost-writing, so that the material in the op-ed piece can remain confidential.
How ironic that Paul Manafort appeared to be ghostwriting the op-ed piece in an attempt to improve public opinion about him, but has ended up making himself look even more guilty. He violated a court order by doing the writing. Maybe Manafort thought his identity would never be linked to the ghostwriter – he was wrong on that point. Co-ghostwriting with a person CNN described as “a Russian who has ties to the Russian intelligence service”, when Manafort’s charges stem from his involvement with Russia and the Ukraine, seems an idiotic move for Manafort to have made.
Given the violation, it appears likely Manafort will remain on house arrest, so he’ll have plenty of time to consider everything he made worse for himself by trying to make things better for himself. How Trumpish.