Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort seeks to postpone trial due on July 25

A file photo of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arriving for arraignment on a third superseding indictment against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of witness tampering, on June 15, 2018.
A file photo of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arriving for arraignment on a third superseding indictment against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of witness tampering, on June 15, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort on Friday (July 6) asked for his July trial to be moved further away from Washington, saying potential jurors in the capital had consumed too much negative press coverage about him and were biased against Trump.

Manafort’s trial in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, is due to start on July 25, but in court filings on Friday his lawyers also asked for postponement until another trial due to start in September in Washington, runs its course.

They said his pre-trial detention made it hard to prepare his defence.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted Manafort on charges including bank and tax fraud.

Friday’s filings are Manafort’s latest attempt to stall the legal process, after a judge overseeing the Alexandria case last month rejected an effort to have the indictment dismissed. 

Manafort’s lawyers said on Friday that the trial should be moved from Alexandria, which is a short drive from Washington, to Roanoke, Virginia, 386 km away. 

They cited voting data showing Hillary Clinton took two-thirds of the 2016 presidential vote in Alexandria, which was part of an “inside-the-Beltway” area preoccupied with political media coverage, much of it negative towards Manafort and Trump. 

They argued that Roanoke, which Trump carried, would draw a less biased jury pool.

“Nowhere in the country is the bias against Mr. Manafort more apparent than here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote. “It is not a stretch to expect that voters who supported Secretary Clinton would be predisposed against Mr Manafort.”

Manafort was jailed last month by the judge overseeing the Washington case after Mueller submitted witness tampering charges.

The jail is about a two-hour drive from Washington. 

Manafort’s lawyers urged the judge in the Virginia case to postpone the trial until after the Washington trial wraps up.

“Mr Manafort’s current detention has made meetings with his attorneys to prepare his defence far more infrequent and enormously time-consuming,” his lawyers wrote.

Also on Friday, prosecutors said they would introduce evidence at trial showing that a senior bank executive helped Manafort get US$16 million (S$22 million)  in loans in return for efforts to get him positions on the campaign and in the administration.

The bank, identified as “Lender D” in Friday’s filing, is the Federal Savings Bank, a Chicago-based lender, according to prior filings in the case. Federal’s chief executive is Steven Calk, who had an advisory role in the Trump campaign.

“During the loan application process, the senior executive expressed interest in working on the Trump campaign, told the defendant about his interest, and eventually secured a position advising the Trump campaign,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye wrote.

In April, Democratic lawmakers questioned whether Calk was seeking a favour from the incoming Trump administration when he inquired about the confirmation process for a top US Army position before extending the loans to Manafort.

The bank has previously denied there was any connection between the loans and Calk’s position on the Trump campaign.