WASHINGTON – The special prosecutor in charge of the investigation into Russia’s possible meddling in the 2016 US election, Robert Mueller, opposed on Monday the release of Paul Manafort, the former campaign chief of US President Donald Trump, from his house arrest, saying that Manafort collaborated last month with a Russian who has ties with Russian intelligence.
In a court document presented on Monday in the federal court of the District of Columbia, Mueller expressed his objection to an agreement that would allow Manafort, who has been put under house arrest since Oct. 30, to be released on bail.
“As late as November 30, 2017, Manafort and a colleague were ghostwriting an editorial in English regarding his political work for Ukraine” with the aim of publishing it with the signature of another person, the court document read.
Trump’s former campaign chief was collaborating in the article 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,” it added.
Mueller argued that this activity violated the terms imposed by the court on Manafort, who in October surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after having been accused of 12 charges that could result in a sentence of more than 10 years in prison.
“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 editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of defendant Manafort,” the document read.
Therefore, Mueller asked court judge Amy Berman Jackson to deny Manafort’s request for probation in exchange for bailing out four properties valued at $11.65 million.
The trial against Manafort, scheduled for May 2018, is the result of Mueller’s investigation into the alleged Russian interference in the US elections of 2016, but is unrelated to his activities as part of Trump’s campaign.
Mueller accuses Manafort and his “number two” during the campaign, Rick Gates, of having created “a web of entities and corresponding bank accounts” in different countries to conceal up to $75 million, which they obtained mainly from the pro-Russian government of Ukraine and other Russian oligarchs.
Manafort, who led the Trump campaign between May and August 2016, had to resign after it was discovered that he had received $12.7 million for secretly advising former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (2010-2014), who had links with Russia.