Manafort Lawyers Claim Leaky Mueller Probe Has Provided No Evidence Of Contacts With Russian Officials

Manafort Lawyers Claim Leaky Mueller Probe Has Provided No Evidence Of Contacts With Russian Officials

The alleged lack of evidence would be in sharp contrast to the repeated leaks from anonymous but highly placed government officials that led to the appointment of a special counsel.
Mollie Hemingway
By

In a new filing demanding a full hearing on what Paul Manafort’s lawyers say is a series of illegal governmental leaks about his case, his legal team also reveals the government has provided no evidence of any contact between Manafort and Russian officials.

The special counsel’s office says it has no evidence in its possession responsive to Manafort’s request for transcripts, notes, or tapes of any and all conversation or contacts between Russian intelligence or government officials and Manafort, according to the filing.

This revelation, and the series of potentially false and illegal leaks from myriad government officials claiming they had such evidence, call into question the legal basis of Mueller’s probe of Manafort, which was ostensibly launched to ferret out illegal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and foreign officials, Manafort’s attorneys say.

Despite multiple requests to provide any evidence detailing contacts between Russian officials and Manafort, “the Special Counsel has not produced any materials to the defense — no tapes, notes, transcripts or any other material evidencing surveillance or intercepts of communications between Mr. Manafort and Russian intelligence officials, Russian government officials (or any other foreign officials),” the filing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Virginia says. “The Office of Special Counsel has advised that there are no materials responsive to Mr. Manafort’s requests.”

“Accordingly, if the representations of the Special Counsel are accurate, and there is not, in fact, any evidence of communications between Mr. Manafort and foreign officials, then the perpetrators of this elaborate hoax must be identified and punished and the substantial unfair prejudice to Mr. Manafort must be remedied,” the filing continued.

The alleged lack of evidence would be in sharp contrast to the repeated leaks from anonymous but highly placed government officials claiming Manafort was in contact with Russian government officials and that these contacts were picked up by federal surveillance efforts. The Manafort filing includes a selected list of some of the many high-level leaks from government officials about his case. These leaks come out of surveillance, grand jury proceedings, FBI investigations, and the special counsel.

  • Law enforcement and intelligence sources leaked pre-election news of a preliminary FBI inquiry into Manafort’s foreign business connections, according to an October 31, 2016, NBC News story.
  • Phone records and intercepted calls show repeated contact between Trump associates and senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials who were leaking secretly to The New York Times because they said the investigation was classified. The article was illustrated with a picture of Manafort and claimed, “The officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort.”
    The article said the National Security Agency captured the calls as routine foreign surveillance and that, after that, the FBI asked the NSA to collect as much info as possible on the calls as well as search through previously intercepted communications. The story claimed that the FBI’s investigation of Manafort “began last spring as an outgrowth of a criminal investigation into his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and for the country’s former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. It has focused on why he was in such close contact with Russian and Ukrainian intelligence officials.” It also said that the FBI didn’t have enough evidence to obtain a wiretap against Manafort but had the NSA scrutinize his communications with Ukrainian officials.
  • “Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” the Associated Press reported on March 22, 2017. It said the knowledge came from “people familiar with the relationship” who “spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret payments publicly.” It further said that Manafort was a leading focus “of the U.S. intelligence investigation of Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a U.S. official” who “spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the investigation are confidential. It said that federal prosecutors had been interested in Manafort’s activities for years.
  • The Associated Press also reported on March 23, 2017, an “Exclusive: US Probe of Ex-Trump Aide Extends to Cyprus,” which quoted “a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly” related to a “request from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.” An April 12, 2017, Associated Press report was based on access to the records from that Treasury Department request.
  • Someone with knowledge of the special counsel’s scope told the Associated Press that the inquiry into the Trump campaign and the Russian government was taking over a criminal probe of Manafort, according to the June 3, 2017, story, “Special Counsel’s Trump Investigation Includes Manafort Case.” The person who described the “expansiveness of Mueller’s investigation” to the AP was the first to leak, the story said, “because revealing details could complicate its progress.”
  • CNN reported on August 4, 2017, that “One Year Into the FBI’s Russia Investiation, Mueller Is On The Trump Money Trail.” In this story, “current and former U.S. officials briefed on the investigation” said that “intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence.” They turned up “intercepted communications appearing to show efforts by Russian operatives to coordinate with Trump associates on damaging Hillary Clinton’s election prospects, officials said. CNN has learned those communications included references to campaign chairman Paul Manafort.” The story also calimed that “The suspect operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Mr. Manafort, encoraging help from the Russians.”

The filing with the U.S. District Court mentioned many other leaks, such as those from government sources on the eve of the special counsel filing superseding indictments against Manafort. “G]overnment sources are specifically identified as such in the news articles, and even when they are not, it is abundantly clear that the leakers are current or former government officials with personal knowledge of the matters reported,” the filing notes.

The leaks from government sources claimed evidence of Manafort’s involvement with Russians, including intercepted phone calls. Yet the special counsel has told Manafort’s attorneys that there are no such intercepts, they say in the court filing.

“Of course, the natural implication of this is that these government leaks were intentionally designed to create a false narrative in order to garner support for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Mr. Manafort for purportedly coordinating with Russian intelligence/government officials despite the lack of any such evidence,” the filing claims.

Without original jurisdiction to investigate Manafort, the special counsel has “no lawful authority or jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute Mr. Manafort” for the matters it has, they say. Further, the leaks “were clearly intended to unfairly prejudice the jury pool” against Manafort and deprive him of due process and an impartial jury.

The many media articles claim multiple government officials confirmed repeated contact between the Trump campaign (including Manafort), Trump associates, and Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, the filing notes. “The false impressions created by this baseless narrative would reasonably cause grand jurors or future potential trial jurors to speculate” that Manafort is involved in nefarious conduct.

If there is no evidence of the communications, contrary to what government sources claimed when they were leaking, “then the perpetrators of this elaborate hoax must be identified and punished and the substantial unfair prejudice to Mr. Manafort must be remedied,” the filing claims.

Mueller’s office has not yet responded in court to the latest motions from Manafort’s legal team.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
Photo Source: NPR, Wired, New York Times
Photo Source: NPR, Wired, New York Times

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