Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s legal team said the op-ed Manafort worked on with a Russian associate did not run afoul of his gag order, while reacting to special counsel Robert Mueller's request to keep Manafort under house arrest.
Manafort’s attorney said his client was not attempting to impact Mueller’s investigation to determine possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, but rather was trying to clear the air in Ukraine.
"The Special Counsel’s Opposition — devoid as it is of both legal analysis and legal precedents — claims that Mr. Manafort has engaged in wrongdoing when all he has tried to do is to correct the public record in Ukraine concerning his consulting activities in Ukraine," the attorney wrote in the filing.
"There is nothing in the draft op-ed that would 'pose a substantial material likelihood of prejudice to this case,'" the filing claims.
Additionally, the document shows Manafort’s lawyer challenged parts of the gag order.
"In the Special Counsel’s view, Mr. Manafort is apparently never allowed to set the factual record straight once an order under Local Criminal Rule 57.7(c) is entered, nor is he allowed to openly maintain his innocence. He must simply remain silent while his reputation is battered, and potential jurors in this District might be tainted. Fortunately, the fundamental right of freedom of speech is not abrogated because a U.S. citizen is charged with a crime," according to the filings.
The filing also noted that Manafort was not attempting to publish the op-ed in the U.S. and clarified it had been published in a Ukrainian newspaper.
“It was intended to be, and has been published in an Ukrainian newspaper, the Kyviv Post,” the legal team said.
The filings come after the denial of Manafort’s request to be released from house arrest, due to the op-ed he ghostwrote alongside a Kremlin-linked associate.
“Even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would be a violation of this Court’s November 8 Order if it had been published," the prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
"The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public's opinion of defendant Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication (much less for Manafort and his long-time associate to ghostwrite it in another's name),” the prosecutors added.
Manafort and his associate Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury this fall on 12 charges related to the work they did in Ukraine before joining Trump's campaign, including conspiracy against the U.S., tax fraud, and money laundering.
The indictments were the first to come from special counsel Mueller’s Russia probe. Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty at a federal courthouse hearing last month.