Mueller team argues Manafort should not be released from jail before trial

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team argued Thursday against a request by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lawyers to release him from jail to better prepare for his trial, saying it’s not necessary and shouldn’t happen.

Though he may not be violent, Manafort’s attempts to contact potential witnesses in his case and influence their testimony are indeed dangerous, the prosecutors argued.

Witness tampering “is no less damaging to the justice system when committed through covert corrupt persuasion than through overt violence,” they wrote to the appellate court Thursday.

A panel of appellate judges in Washington, DC, is weighing whether Manafort should be released as he awaits trial. He has been in a cell akin to solitary confinement at Virginia’s Northern Neck Regional Jail since June 15 after a judge in DC revoked his bail for allegedly contacting witnesses in his case.

He had been on house arrest since late October in Alexandria, Virginia, with a $10 million unsecured bond after the court had deemed him a flight risk. Mueller’s legal team argues that the terms the judge set for Manafort’s house arrest months ago — that he not commit any crimes while awaiting trial — was clear.

But Manafort argued last week he couldn’t prepare for his trials while in a jail about two hours away from DC.

“Those limitations are common to defendants incarcerated pending trial, and Manafort has not taken any steps to bring specific problems to the attention of the district court or the government,” Mueller’s team wrote Thursday. “The district court has taken steps to minimize the impact on Manafort’s ability to prepare for his upcoming trials; the government has offered to do the same; and Manafort has not sought any relief from the district court or the government, including the Bureau of Prisons, with respect to any confinement conditions.”

In the filing, Mueller’s team wrote they offered to “work with Manafort’s counsel” to house him in a jail closer to his attorneys. He didn’t take the offer, they wrote.

Manafort’s first of two federal criminal trials starts in three weeks.