Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller say that President Donald J. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been ghost-writing an op-ed to help clean-up his public image.
In court papers, prosecuters say he enlisted a longtime colleague who they believe has “ties” to Russian intelligence. That colleague is helping him write an opinion piece to influence public opinion regarding his political consulting in Ukraine.
Manafort is currently under house arrest, facing several felonies involving allegations of money laundering and tax fraud, linking back to political consulting work he did in Ukraine. He has denied any wrongdoing in the charges against him.
The opinion piece, if published, would have violated a judge’s order which prevents him from making public statements. Court papers say Manafort and his colleague planned to publish the op-ed, an opinion essay in which the contents are attributed to being the writer’s thoughts and summation, rather than facts.
“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).”
They added, “It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts.”
The op-ed was being drafted as late as last week, prosecutors say, when they discovered it on Thursday and told Manafort’s attorney about the piece. Manafort’s attorney said that “steps would be taken to make sure it was no longer going to be published.”
Manafort’s colleague, who is currently based in Russia, according to the Associated Press, was not named by prosecutors, nor were details regarding how they came to determine the person had spy agency connections, what the contents of the op-ed said, or what the published piece was to be titled.
Prosecutors are asking that Manafort remains under house arrest with GPS monitoring, for now, a request that runs contrary to Manafort’s efforts to secure his release from home confinement. He recently pledged to post over $10 million in bond and may have been close to a deal.
Mueller’s team is now opposing Manafort’s proposed bond agreement. A trial is scheduled for next year.
Manafort previously led the Trump campaign until Trump replaced him. Manafort’s business associate, Rick Gates, also worked on the Trump campaign. Both men were indicted in October and are among the first people to face charges brought by Mueller, who is leading an investigation into allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and may have colluded with Trump associates.
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