Manafort's Lawyers Say Op-Ed Did Not Violate Judge's Gag Order
Lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort told a federal judge Thursday that their client did not violate her gag order by working on an op-ed because the piece was for a Ukrainian newspaper.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued an order to show cause earlier this week as to why Manafort had not violated her Nov. 8 order, which barred the parties in the case from “making statements to the media or in public settings” that could affect the fairness of a trial. On Monday, lawyers for Robert Mueller, the special counsel, told Jackson that Manafort violated the order by penning an op-ed with a Russian colleague, and that given the alleged violation, they no longer approved of Manafort’s plea deal.
In the filing Thursday, Manafort’s lawyers, Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle, said the colleague is a Ukrainian national, Oleg Voloshyn, the former spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Ukraine. They wrote that Manafort edited the op-ed “to correct the public record in Ukraine,” and that it has been published in the Ukrainian newspaper Kyiv Post.
“The Office of Special Counsel misreads the breadth of the order, and more importantly, ignores the controlling case law cited by the court therein,” Downing and Zehnle wrote. “There has been no violation of the order and no basis for the government’s withdrawal of its consent to the modified bail package. Moreover, the government’s interpretation would unconstitutionally violate Mr. Manafort’s rights to defend himself and his reputation, and to correct the public record.”
The op-ed in question, headlined “Oleg Voloshin: Paul Manafort, European integration’s unknown soldier for Ukraine,” includes an editor’s note referencing the controversy in the United States, and the special counsel’s push to revoke Manafort’s bail. Voloshin, according to the note, said he only sent the op-ed to Manafort and Ukrainian associate Konstantin Kilimnik for fact checking.
The lawyers wrote that Manafort’s work on the op-ed was not a violation because nothing in it “would pose a substantial material likelihood of prejudice” to the case.
They said the order could not be interpreted to mean that no statements could be made to influence public opinion. They cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada, in which the high court upheld limits on what attorneys can say about pending cases, as long as they are given fair notice about what they can and cannot say.
“In the Special Counsel’s view, Mr. Manafort is apparently never allowed to set the factual record straight once an order under Local Criminal Rule 57.7(c) is entered, nor is he allowed to openly maintain his innocence,” the lawyers wrote. “He must simply remain silent while his reputation is battered, and potential jurors in this District might be tainted.”
Manafort, as well as his deputy, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment in October. Both currently remain under house arrest.
Source: Law Journal