Paul Manafort leaves the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after a status conference on Nov. 2, 2017. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Friends of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have set up a legal defense fund to meet “the tremendous legal costs” stemming from proceedings in the special counsel’s Russia probe.

Manafort, a longtime Republican operative, currently faces criminal charges, including tax and bank fraud, in federal courts in Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia.

The Paul Manafort Defense Fund “was established to support the Manafort family as they battle false allegations, government leaks and smear campaigns related to the proceedings brought against him by the Office of Special Counsel,” according to a press release announcing the fund. It’s not immediately clear who created the fund.

Its creators, who say they are seeking donations from anyone “who values civil liberties and wishes to show the ‘Deep State’ that they cannot exert their will on ordinary citizens,” also noted that any funds raised beyond the necessary amount to cover legal fees would go to the American Civil Liberties Union.

While it is unclear whether Manafort had any direct involvement in building the fund, its website reads, “A gift by you will help Paul and his Team mount the strongest and most thorough defense possible. … Paul and his family are reaching out to any who can assist him at this time.”

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Paul Manafort, declined to comment.

The site also includes a page dedicated to Manafort’s “lifetime of service” and features links to conservative media articles criticizing the special counsel and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as well as articles highlighting comments from District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who questioned the scope of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation earlier this month.

The creation of this fund comes as friends and relatives of other individuals wrapped up in Mueller’s investigation have solicited donations to help defray legal costs.

Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide and Manafort’s longtime business partner, benefited from a legal defense fund last year. He entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in February.

Relatives of Mike Flynn, retired general and former Trump national security adviser, sought donations to help pay for his legal defense. Associates of Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide also set up a fund in his name to offset likely “more than $125,000 in legal bills.”

A GoFundMe page for former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, designed to pay for costs related to a Justice Department inspector general investigation and congressional oversight requests, closed down earlier this year after raising over $500,000.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Jeffrey Yohai, Manafort’s former son-in-law, signaled this week in court filings that they would no longer represent the real estate investor in a separate criminal case. They said his real estate firm was uncooperative with attorneys, and “has failed to pay its outstanding attorneys fees and costs.”

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