Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were back in a Washington, D.C., courtroom Tuesday where the federal judge overseeing their case said the men’s much-anticipated trial may not take place until September, at the earliest.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson also weighed in on whether Gates violated the gag order she issued when the case began and the potential for her to oversee the civil suit Manafort filed against the special counsel earlier this month.
Here’s all you need to know from Tuesday’s hearing:
Trial won’t begin for months: In a court filing Friday, lawyers for special counsel Robert Mueller suggested a May 14 trial date, and in court Tuesday government lawyer Greg Andres said he expects the government will need three weeks to present its case. The government has turned over roughly 590,000 documents as part of the discovery process as of Friday, and Andres said more will follow Tuesday.
But Jackson said a trial may need to wait until the fall, given the status of discovery.
“I’m not sure May 14 is going to turn out to be practical,” Jackson said. The parties also spoke in private with the judge at the bench for several minutes during the hearing about scheduling issues.
The judge deferred on setting a trial date, for now, but set out a preliminary schedule. Jackson gave the defense until Feb. 23 to file preliminary dispositive motions relating to any issues with the prosecution or indictment. Both Kevin Downing and Walter Mack, lawyers for Manafort and Gates, respectively, said they plan to do so. The government’s response is due March 16, and the defendants’ reply by March 30. The hearing on those motions will be April 17 at 10 a.m.
The next status conference in the case is set for Feb. 14 at 9:30 a.m.
Insights on Manafort’s civil case: Andrew Weissman, another attorney on the special counsel’s team, also addressed the civil lawsuit filed by Downing earlier this month against Mueller. The lawsuit, filed in the same court, argues Mueller did not have the authority to bring charges against Manafort. Gates and Manafort both pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment.
Weissmann said the government plans to ask for a motion to dismiss the civil lawsuit by Feb. 2, on the grounds that the adequate venue for Manafort to raise those issues would be in pretrial motions within the existing criminal case.
The civil case was randomly assigned to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and no federal rule requires its transfer. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Tuesday she wants to hear from the parties whether they want to transfer the case to her, noting that the federal rules of procedure don’t address how to handle such an issue.
“This is a rather unique situation,” the judge said.
Weismann said the government has no objection to transferring the case, and the judge ordered responses on the issue from both parties by Friday.
Another gag order warning: The judge also reprimanded Gates for his appearance on a video shown at a fundraiser for his legal defense fund last month. Jackson issued an order to show cause in late December as to why Gates’ appearance on the video, and subsequent statements from the organizer of the fundraiser, lobbyist Jack Burkman, about the special counsel’s case, did not violate Jackson’s November 2017 order that barred the parties from speaking to the press.
Several journalists were invited to the fundraiser, though Shanlon Wu, one of Gates’ attorneys, said Tuesday that his client had nothing to do with the invitation list.
Jackson said nothing about her order prohibits the creation or promotion of a legal defense fund but that it was unlikely Burkman was acting without any input from Gates when he made statements about the case. She urged both the defendants to use “common sense” moving forward.
“If the press is going to be invited to an event where you or your surrogates would be speaking, I’d suggest that’s a pretty big red flag,” Jackson said. However, she said she would vacate her order to show cause.
It marks the second time Jackson has warned the defendants about speaking to the press or violating her order. She made similar remarks to Downing after Manafort edited an op-ed that appeared in a Ukrainian newspaper last month.