The op-ed, which Paul Manafort reportedly wrote with a Russian intelligence operative, violated a court order not to discuss the case publicly.
President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who was indicted for alleged offenses ranging from money laundering to acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government, reportedly ghostwrote an editorial in an attempt to sway the public opinion in his favor.
His writing partner of choice was apparently a longtime Russian colleague “assessed to have ties” to the Kremlin’s intelligence service, according to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Federal prosecutors want to cancel a bail deal they struck with Manafort because of the op-ed.
The documents, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., showed Manafort had worked on the draft as recently as Nov. 30. Although the ex-Trump aide did not get to publish the op-ed, it is important to note the attempt to write one violated a court order that instructed him to “refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”
The court order came earlier this year after Manafort’s lawyers spoke to the media following his initial Oct. 30 hearing.
“This is a criminal trial, not a public relations campaign,” U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said at the time. “I expect counsel to do their talking in this courtroom and in their pleadings and not on the courthouse steps.”
However, it seems Manafort, who is currently under house arrest and wearing an ankle monitor, did not learn his lesson.
“Manafort worked on the draft with a long-time Russian colleague of Manafort’s, who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service,” Mueller’s team wrote. “Even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would be a violation of this Court’s [previous order] if it had been published.”
The former campaign chair, who offered his Trump Tower apartment in a bid to avoid house arrest, was allegedly writing the op-ed to detail his work with a Ukrainian political party in order to gain public’s sympathies.
“The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of 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),” the special counsel added. “It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts.”
Although the special counsel did not mention the Russian’s name in the court documents, Business Insider correspondent Natasha Bertrand wrote on Twitter that it is most likely Russian-Ukrainian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked with Manafort for over 11 years.
“As late as 30 November 2017, Manafort and a colleague were ghostwriting an editorial in English regarding his political work for Ukraine,” read the court documents. “Because Manafort has now taken actions that reflect an intention to violate or circumvent the court’s existing orders, at a time one would expect particularly scrupulous adherence, the government submits that the proposed bail package is insufficient reasonably to assure his appearance as required.”
Manafort’s team has not commented on the matter as of yet.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Joshua Roberts