Judge Gags Manafort Case: No Leaks, Press Statements Allowed

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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The federal judge supervising former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s case imposed a gag order against all parties and potential witnesses Wednesday, forbidding all those involved in the case from speaking to the press.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the order was necessary to ensure that potential jurors are not prejudiced by statements or slogans lawyers on both sides may try to advance through the press.

“[I]n order to safeguard defendants’ rights to a fair trial, and to ensure that the court has the ability to seat a jury that has not been tainted by pretrial publicity, all interested participants in the matter, including the parties, any potential witnesses, and counsel for the parties and the witnesses, are hereby ordered to refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case,” Jackson’s order reads.

It is unclear how broadly the “potential witnesses” category can be construed. It could apply against prominent Republicans or Trump administration officials who may eventually be called to participate in the case.

Jackson last week indicated she was displeased with a short statement that Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing gave to the press after his client’s arraignment.

“This is a criminal trial, and it’s not a public relations campaign,” she said at a hearing last week.

Manafort faces 12 criminal charges including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, failure to register as an agent of a foreign principal, and false statements of various sorts. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. He was released on house arrest and a $10 million unsecured appearance bond, though his lawyers are currently negotiating for more favorable bail terms with special counsel Robert Mueller. For the moment, he remains confined to his Alexandria, Va. apartment under electronic monitoring.

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