US judge orders Manafort, Gates to remain on home arrest
A U.S. judge on Thursday ordered indicted former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Richard Gates to remain under home arrest, rejecting for now their pleas for less stringent bail conditions.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson also sharply warned lawyers for the duo not to speak about their case outside of court.
“This is a criminal trial and not a public relations campaign,” Jackson said during a hearing.
Manafort, 68, who served several months as Trump’s campaign manager, and Gates, 45, who also worked on the Republican’s campaign, pleaded not guilty on Monday to a 12-count indictment, whose charges included conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the United States and failing to register as foreign agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.
A conviction on conspiracy to launder money alone could carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
In a filing with the court on Thursday, Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, argued that the government’s case against his client is flimsy and that the bail conditions should be softened because Manafort does not pose a flight risk.
Gates’ attorneys made a similar request to the court.
But Jackson said initial bail terms for both men would remain in place for now, and set a bail hearing for Monday to consider changes.
Manafort and Gates are under house arrest, under unsecured bonds of $10 million and $5 million, respectively. Prosecutors have argued there is a risk the men would flee.
In a related development, Sam Clovis, a top adviser to Trump during his election campaign, on Thursday withdrew his candidacy for a senior administration post, just days after he was linked to another aide who pleaded guilty in the probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In a letter to Trump describing his decision, Clovis made no mention of the Russia controversy, but cited “the political climate inside Washington.”
“The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day,” Clovis wrote in the letter, dated Wednesday. “As I am focused on your success and the success of this Administration, I do not want to be a distraction or negative influence.”
Trump had nominated Clovis, his campaign’s national co-chairman, to a top post as chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture.
A source familiar with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation identified Clovis as the unnamed campaign supervisor in a court filing who had discussions with Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos about efforts to improve U.S.-Russian relations and setting up meetings between senior Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about his dealings with Russians.
“Mr. Clovis’ nomination was only withdrawn because that would certainly have been a topic during his upcoming testimony, under oath, before the Senate Agriculture Committee,” Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, a member of the committee, said. “I know because I was going ask him all about it to get more facts on the record and before the American people.”
Mueller’s team is probing conclusions reached by top U.S. intelligence agencies and others that Russia interfered in the election to undercut Americans’ faith in their democracy, undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help Trump.
The inquiry also will determine whether or not there was any coordination between Russians and associates of the Trump campaign.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied meddling. Trump has denied collusion between his associates and Russia, calling the investigations a witch hunt.
(This version of the story corrects the typographical error to make it “Papadopoulos” instead of “Papodoulos” paragraph 15)
(Additonal reporting by Steve Holland and Nathan Layne; Editing by John Walcott, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)