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Judge tells ex-Trump adviser Paul Manafort to stop communicating with media

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A U.S. federal judge on Monday issued a stern warning to President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to refrain from making statements to the media that could harm his right to a fair trial.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson chided Manafort for ghost-writing an opinion piece that was published last week in the Kyiv Post, a Ukraine English language newspaper, lauding Manafort’s political work for Ukraine.

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Jackson said she should would consider any similar future behavior to be a violation of her Nov. 8 gag order not to discuss the case with the media or make public statements in ways that could affect its outcome.

She also stopped short of granting a request from Special Counsel Robert Mueller to deny Manafort’s proposal for more lenient bail terms, saying she would take his proposal to lift his house arrest in exchange for posting four real estate properties as collateral under advisement and rule at a later date.

Prosecutors had previously asked her to deny his request, saying his behind-the-scenes ghost-writing violated her order and raised issues of trust.

“Mr. Manafort, that order applies to you, and not just your lawyer,” Jackson said.

She added that the op-ed, while not published in a United State newspaper, could potentially taint a local jury pool because of the global nature of media.

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“All that has to happen is for that favorable article, which is going to … look on its face to be entirely independent, but is actually in part a message crafted and shaped by you … is to have somebody you know post it on Facebook, Twitter or a blog, and you have accomplished your goal, given the power of retweeting,” she said.

Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates are facing charges including conspiracy to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent working on behalf of former pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government.

Jackson set the next status conference hearing for Jan. 16.

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She said she has some outstanding concerns about Manafort’s proposed bail package, including the fact he relied on Zillow to come up with some of the property value estimates.

She also expressed frustration that the defendants were not always giving pre-trial services ample notice about their whereabouts, saying “it has to be more than an hour in advance.”

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She added that Gates has repeatedly filed requests to get out of house arrest on the weekends to go to his children’s’ sporting events, and she urged his lawyers to reach a bail agreement with the government so the court could “get out of the business of monitoring soccer practice.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Steve Orlofsky)


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Trump Twitter rages against impeachment testimony: ‘Star witnesses unable to answer the question!’

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President Donald Trump tweeted out a reaction to Day One of the impeachment hearings he claimed he hadn't watched.

The president insisted Wednesday afternoon, during a meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, that he hadn't watched "one minute" of the first public testimony, by two State Department witnesses -- but he reacted the following day on Twitter.

"(Rep. John Ratcliffe) asked the two 'star' witnesses, 'where is the impeachable event in that call?'" Trump tweeted. "Both stared straight ahead with a blank look on their face, remained silent, & were unable to answer the question. That would be the end of a case run by normal people! - but not Shifty!"

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GOP’s ‘chaotic’ first day fighting impeachment revealed they’re overwhelmed by evidence against Trump: Ex-prosecutor

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The House Republican strategy for the first day of public impeachment hearings showed they knew Democrats were playing a strong hand, and they didn't.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, writing for Politico, explained how GOP lawmakers tried to confuse jurors -- in this case, the public and their counterparts in the Senate -- by talking about Hunter Biden or Javelin missiles because they wanted to distract from the strong evidence tying President Donald Trump to an extortion scheme.

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Trump’s latest and most ludicrous con job

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Donald Trump is con artist in chief of the United States. His many apparent and impeachable crimes, such as the Ukraine scandal, collusion with Russia and violations of the Emoluments Clause, flow from that fact. Of course, Trump’s long con involves millions and perhaps even billions of dollars. But Trump’s big score, his ultimate goal, is permanent control of the presidency of the United States and the power for him and his family and allies to engage in legal theft indefinitely.

This article first appeared on Salon.

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