Nation

Paul Manafort may have violated court order, prosecutors say

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort faces charges related to his previous work in Ukraine.
SHAWN THEW/EPA/Shutterstock
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort faces charges related to his previous work in Ukraine.

WASHINGTON — While facing several felony charges, President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been working on an op-ed article with a longtime colleague ‘‘assessed to have ties’’ to a Russian intelligence service, according to court papers filed Monday by prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller.

In the court filing, prosecutors say Manafort and the colleague sought to publish the op-ed under someone else’s name and intended it to influence public opinion about his work in Ukraine. The article was being drafted as late as last week, with Manafort currently under house arrest.

Prosecutors did not name the colleague but noted the person is based in Russia.

Advertisement

Manafort is facing several felony charges involving allegations of money laundering and other financial crimes related to his political consulting work in Ukraine. He has been confined to his home while he works out a bond arrangement with the government.

Get Ground Game in your inbox:
Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

In the court filing, prosecutors say the op-ed appeared to violate an admonishment from the judge last month to refrain from public statements.

‘‘Even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would be a violation of this court’s Nov. 8 order if it had been published,’’ the prosecutors wrote.

They added, ‘‘It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts.’’

Manafort has denied any wrongdoing related to his work in Ukraine. A spokesman for Manafort did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Advertisement

In a separate development Monday, Trump said the FBI ruined the life of his former national security adviser and said his Democratic opponent for president, Hillary Clinton, suffered no consequences after she lied “many times” to the FBI.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI when he was questioned early this year about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

He was the fourth person charged in the investigation by Mueller, the special counsel appointed to lead an inquiry into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump associates.

As he left for Utah on Monday, the president said he felt “very badly” for Flynn, whom he fired in February after he lied to the vice president about the content of these conversations.

Trump did not cite specifically what Clinton said that he considered a lie.

Advertisement

Clinton gave a voluntary interview to the bureau in July 2016 during its investigation into whether she or her aides broke the law by corresponding through a private e-mail server set up for her use as secretary of state. A few days later, the FBI director at the time, James Comey, recommended no charges be filed against her.

Also Monday, Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, defended his work force in an e-mail, a day after Trump said on Twitter that the agency’s standing was the “worst in History.”

In a message to the FBI’s 35,000 agents and support staff that was provided to The New York Times, Wray said that he was “inspired by example after example of professionalism and dedication to justice demonstrated around the bureau. It is truly an honor to represent you.” He did not mention Trump by name.

In one of the president’s tweets over the weekend, he said he fired Flynn for lying to the FBI. Critics seized on that assertion as evidence that the president obstructed justice, a confession that he knew Flynn had committed a crime when, a day after firing him, he pressured Comey, then head of the FBI, to drop the investigation into Flynn, according to testimony from Comey.

But one of Trump’s lawyers, John Dowd, said that his client did not write the tweet and suggested that the president cannot be prosecuted on such a charge.

Dowd argued in a statement to the news website Axios that Trump “cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution and thus “has every right to express his view of any case.”

A White House spokesman would not answer questions about the president’s tweets.

Material from The New York Times was used in this report.