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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, September 06, 2018 1:00 am

2nd Manafort trial will remain in DC

Attorneys sought move to Virginia

CHAD DAY | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Paul Manafort's second trial will remain in the District of Columbia, a judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that the former Trump campaign chairman's attorneys had failed to show that thorough jury questioning and careful instructions couldn't ensure that both sides could pick an impartial jury in Washington.

Manafort's attorneys had argued that the trial should be moved to Roanoke, Virginia, because the intensity of publicity in Washington made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial. But Jackson said the request appeared to relate more to concerns about the political affiliation of Washington residents, rather than a unique amount of pretrial publicity.

Jackson's ruling clears the way for Manafort to be tried this month on several felony charges related to his lobbying and political consulting work on behalf of Ukrainian political interests. It was the second time Manafort had been denied moving a trial away from the Washington metropolitan area.

Manafort had made a similar unsuccessful request in his bank fraud and tax evasion trial in northern Virginia. A jury there convicted him on eight counts of filing false tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts.

In ruling against Manafort's request for a change of venue, Jackson said she could reconsider if they are unable to qualify enough jurors to proceed to jury selection in the case, scheduled to begin Sept. 17.

Jackson announced her decision during a hearing in which prosecutors revealed that they are unsure whether Manafort's longtime deputy and fellow Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, will testify at trial. But if he does testify, the government asked Jackson to bar the defense from questioning Gates about his cooperation with the ongoing investigation, noting that many aspects of the more than 20 meetings he's had with prosecutors don't relate to Manafort's case.

Jackson also ruled that Manafort's defense couldn't introduce evidence about Gates' extramarital affairs, a topic that came out during his testimony during Manafort's trial in last month in Virginia.

Jackson has yet to rule on how much jurors can hear about Manafort's contention that he is the victim of a selective prosecution. Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said Wednesday that his team wants to introduce evidence showing the rarity of FARA prosecutions and to argue that the prosecution was instigated by the special counsel's office because Manafort led the Trump campaign.