President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been working on an op-ed with a former colleague “assessed to have ties” to Russian intelligence in an effort to influence public perception of his foreign lobbying, according to court documents filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators Monday.
Prosecutors claim Manafort was drafting the op-ed as recently as last week, in violation of a federal judge’s orders prohibiting him from making public statements, according to the court filings obtained by The Associated Press. Prosecutors did not name Manfort’s Kremlin connected colleague, but did note he is currently in Russia.
“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 prosecutors wrote. “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).”
“It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts,” the prosecutors added.
Manafort, who is facing multiple felony charges for financial crimes related to his lobbying work in Ukraine, has been placed under house arrest while his legal team works out a bond agreement federal prosecutors. They had reportedly reached a tentative deal in which Manafort would post a $10 million bond in exchange for his release from home confinement, but the deal fell through in light of the recent revelation.
Prosecutors told the AP they discovered Manafort’s plans to publish the op-ed last Thursday and alerted his attorneys, who assured them “steps would be taken to make sure it was it was no longer going to be published.”
Manafort and his longtime associate, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges, among other financial crimes, on Oct. 30. The charges stem from payments Manafort received for his lobbying work on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.
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