ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Thursday to the federal grand jury indictment brought against him in Virginia in his first appearance in that case. The trial for the case is set to begin July 10.
Manafort will continue to be on home confinement with electronic monitoring. He can leave the house to consult with his lawyers, go to the doctor and go to church. Because Manafort’s attorney’s have declined to combine the two cases brought against him, Manafort will be forced to wear two monitoring devices.
“He wears two bracelets now,” the judge overseeing the case, Judge T.S. Ellis III told the courtroom as he finalized Manafort’s conditions of release.
The 32-count indictment includes charges of making false statements on tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud.
Manafort pleaded not guilty last week to a separate superseding indictment brought against him in Washington, D.C., which includes charges of conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, and making false statements. That trial is set to begin Sept. 17.
One of the attorneys for the prosecution, Andrew Weissmann, said that the special counsel’s team would prefer a trial starting around May 17. However, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing argued that with a complicated case along with another in Washington, D.C., the trial should take place later than that.
Ellis then proposed a June date, and adjusted it to July after Downing argued that it is a complicated case. Downing later told the judge that in his “rosy glasses” view, the trial would not take place until November.
“You need to go back to the optometrist,” Ellis retorted before finalizing that the trial will begin on July 10.
The cases brought against Manafort in Virginia and Washington, D.C. will remain separate for now. Ellis asked the prosecution if there was discussion with Manafort’s legal team about combining the cases or dealing with any overlap. Weissmann, the lawyer speaking for the special counsel’s team, told the judge that they gave Manafort’s attorneys the option of bringing the charges in one case, but that Manafort’s legal team opted not to. The prosecution indicated as much in Manafort’s hearing in Washington, D.C. last week.
The separate cases in Virginia and Washington, D.C. use overlapping evidence, but prosecutors do not have venue to bring certain charges included in the Virginia case against Manafort in Washington, D.C. Manafort could choose to waive venue and combine the cases, but he has not.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team brought 32 counts against Manafort and Rick Gates in the Virginia indictment. Weissmann told the judge on Thursday that he plans to slim down the indictment to just 18 counts against Manafort now that Gates has pleaded guilty. Weissmann also said that as of right now, prosecutors plan to bring somewhere between 20 and 25 witnesses during the trial. But he said that they plan to work with the defense on stipulations, which would help reduce the number of witnesses the prosecution calls.
Downing, the attorney representing Manafort, told the judge that he plans to bring motions to dismiss in both cases against Manafort, noting that the deadline to do so in the Washington, D.C. case is March 14. Manafort’s attorneys have already filed a civil lawsuit against the Justice Department, Mueller, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, arguing that the special counsel overstepped his authority.
Though Manafort will be subject to home confinement and electronic monitoring for the time being, his conditions of release could change down the road, as Ellis told Manafort’s lawyers that he is happy to return to the subject at a later time. Downing told the judge that he plans to submit the bond package he is working on in the Washington, D.C., case to Ellis, and Ellis indicated that he could be willing to change the conditions of Manafort’s release if the judge in the Washington, D.C. case is satisfied with that bond package.
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