US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Friday proposed a May 7 trial date for President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his aide Rick Gates. The investigation is ongoing, as the US media are analyzing various aspects of the case that could be the highlight of American politics in months to come.
The judge in a high profile case said she would hear arguments about that date at a hearing scheduled for Monday, according to Reuters. Jackson on Thursday said she was considering issuing a gag order limiting public statements from lawyers involved in the case, given the intense media coverage of the proceedings.
“This is a criminal trial, and it’s not a public relations campaign. I expect counsel to do their talking in this courtroom and in their pleadings and not on the courthouse steps,” she said.
Kevin Downing, Manafort’s attorney, told reporters outside the courthouse on Monday that the indictment was “ridiculous” and there was “no evidence” of collusion with Russia during the presidential campaign.
Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges including money laundering and making false statements, among other counts, marking the first public charges to be announced as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling Russia probe.
The trial and the lead-up to it are expected to be a high-profile affair and will keep attention sharply focused on Mueller’s probe, which cast a large shadow over Trump’s presidency.
Cyprus cooperates with the Manafort investigation
Authorities in Cyprus reportedly gave documents about Manafort’s financial activities to special counsel Robert Mueller. Citing people familiar with Mueller’s investigation, Bloomberg reports that Cyprus gave Mueller’s team documents relating to Manafort and his associate Richard Gates just dates before they were indicted Monday.
The 12-count indictment, stemming from Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the presidential election, charges Manafort and Gates with money laundering and conspiracy against the United States, among other things. The charges are related to work Manafort and Gates did for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
The indictment against Manafort and Gates alleges that they funneled more than 75 million dollars through foreign bank accounts in Cyprus and other countries. According to a Bloomberg source, the duo had at least 15 accounts with Cypriot banks, the Hill writes.
Trump again downplays Papadopoulos role
It was also revealed this week that Mueller’s team had cut a plea deal with George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, based on charges that he had lied to the FBI about his communications with Russia-linked contracts.
President Trump said today he did not remember much about a meeting last year with a former campaign aide who pleaded guilty this month as part of a federal probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Asked about a meeting in which Papadopoulos suggested arranging a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump told reporters: “I don’t remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting.”
A photograph posted on Trump’s Instagram account shows Papadopoulos sitting at the same table with Trump as well as Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s attorney general, and several others.
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials, in the first criminal charges alleging links between the Trump campaign and Moscow. His plea was made public this week.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under pressure from Senate Democrats to testify again about the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions has denied knowing anything about contacts between the campaign and Russians or Russian government intermediaries.
AP: Russian hackers may have changed some of the DNC emails
The Associated Press published a deep analysis of a possible timeline of alleged Russian hack of the emails from Democratic National Committee. They claim the phishing operation started in March of 2016 and was ongoing until the end of spring. A huge number of phishing emails got attention from US intelligence operations. The group Fancy Bear is thought to be responsible for part of the hack, while a famous hacker Guccifer 2.0 from Romania got in contact with Wikileaks and the global press.
The first document from Guccifer 2.0 published on June 15 came not from the DNC as advertised but from Podesta’s inbox, according to a former DNC official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. The official said the word “CONFIDENTIAL” was not in the original document. Guccifer 2.0 had airbrushed it to catch reporters’ attention, AP reports.