A Washington federal appeals court refused Tuesday to release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as he awaits trial on charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
The ruling came as Manafort’s trial began in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal court, where the veteran Republican operative is facing bank and tax fraud charges. In Washington federal district court, Manafort is facing charges of conspiracy, money laundering and failing to disclose his past lobbying work for the Russia-backed government of Ukraine.
It was in the Washington case that prosecutors successfully argued that Manafort should be jailed as he awaits trial. Manafort had initially been released to home confinement, but when prosecutors found evidence that he was trying to influence potential witnesses, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered him last month to await trial in jail.
Judge Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, wrote the panel ruling, which was unanimous. A George W. Bush appointee, Thomas Griffith, was on the panel with David Tatel, who was appointed by Bill Clinton.
The court found no error in Berman’s detention conclusions, which focused on preventing Manafort from committing an alleged criminal offense while free pending trial. The appeals panel said it did not need to render a decision on Manafort’s challenge to the “dangerousness” finding.
“The conduct that loomed largest—in both the briefing on the revocation motion and in the district court’s findings—was the evidence suggesting [Manafort] had committed a crime while on release,” Wilkins wrote. “The district court found that if [Manafort] had committed a new crime even while ordered not to commit a new crime, it was likely to happen again.”
Wilkins continued: “It was also not lost on the district court that appellant had been warned about ‘skating close to the line’ with respect to the potential violation of the gag order, and yet appellant failed to heed those warnings and went right past the line with the alleged witness tampering.”
The appeals court found no “clear error” in Jackson’s finding that no condition of release would ensure Manafort did not commit a new crime while free pending trial.
“That course of conduct included [Manafort's] decision to push the envelope by contributing to an op-ed in a foreign newspaper while under the gag order and his repeated communications with potential witnesses, personally and through an intermediary,” Wilkins wrote.
The D.C. Circuit’s ruling is posted below: