Prosecutors: Manafort wrote op-ed with colleague in Russia

accreditation
Paul Manafort leaves Federal District Court in Washington. (Alex Brandon, AP)
Paul Manafort leaves Federal District Court in Washington. (Alex Brandon, AP)

Washington - In an attempt to burnish his public image and leave no fingerprints behind, Donald Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort recently enlisted a long-time colleague "assessed to have ties" to Russian intelligence to help him ghost-write an op-ed, prosecutors said on Monday.

Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller say in court papers that they believe the opinion piece - written while Manafort is on house arrest facing several felonies - would have violated a judge's order that bars him from trying his case in the press.

They are now pushing for Manafort to remain confined to his home on GPS monitoring for the time being.

READ: Trump ex-campaign chief Manafort indicted in first charges from Russia probe

According to the court papers, Manafort and the colleague sought to publish the op-ed to influence public opinion about his political consulting in Ukraine, work at the heart of the criminal case against him. The op-ed was being drafted as late as last week.

Prosecutors did not name Manafort's colleague, who is currently based in Russia, or provide details of how they determined the person had ties to a spy agency. Reached on Monday, a spokesperson for Manafort declined comment.

Felony charges

Manafort is currently facing several felony charges involving allegations of money laundering and other financial crimes related to his political consulting work in Ukraine.

Manafort has denied any wrongdoing. A trial is scheduled for 2018.

In the court filing, prosecutors say the op-ed appeared to violate an admonishment from the judge in November to refrain from public statements.

An op-ed is an opinion essay written to be published in some form, usually on a website or in a newspaper or magazine. It is usually marked as representing the views of the writer and separated from news content.

"Even if the ghost-written 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 ghost-write it in another's name)."

They added: "It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts."

Prosecutors said they discovered the efforts to publish the op-ed on November 30 and alerted Manafort's attorney, who assured prosecutors that "steps would be taken to make sure it was no longer going to be published".

Trump campaign

At the time, Manafort was working to secure his release from home confinement by posting more than $10m in bond, and according to court papers, he had reached a tentative agreement with the government.

But after discovering the op-ed, Mueller's team is now opposing Manafort's proposed bond agreement.

Prosecutors did not disclose the op-ed in court papers so as to prevent it from becoming public. They also did not disclose what name the ghost-written op-ed would have been published under.

Manafort and his long-time business associate, Rick Gates, were indicted in October by a grand jury in Washington. They were among the first people to face charges brought by the special counsel's office.

Manafort led the Trump campaign for several months, including during the Republican National Convention. Gates also worked in a senior role on the campaign.

Mueller has been leading a wide-ranging investigation into Russia's election interference and any coordination with Trump associates.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When and why would you have your or your partner's sperm count checked?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
That's an unnecessary procedure
16% - 820 votes
As soon as we decide to start a family
7% - 372 votes
Only if we're struggling to conceive
76% - 3801 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
14.13
-0.7%
Rand - Pound
19.68
-0.3%
Rand - Euro
16.82
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.67
+0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-1.2%
Gold
1,774.13
-2.1%
Silver
25.96
-3.8%
Palladium
2,505.50
-10.7%
Platinum
1,065.50
-4.9%
Brent Crude
74.39
+0.5%
Top 40
60,400
-1.1%
All Share
66,586
-1.1%
Resource 10
61,985
-3.3%
Industrial 25
89,075
+0.9%
Financial 15
13,266
-2.4%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo