May 15 (UPI) — Special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday urged a federal judge to reject Paul Manafort’s request to hold a hearing on whether government officials leaked grand jury information to the media.
Prosecutors argued that Manafort’s defense attorneys failed to provide sufficient evidence that the news reports regarding the grand jury trial came from government officials.
“Manafort’s speculative claim of improper conduct falls far short of the showing necessary to warrant a hearing on potential violations of [a grand jury secrecy rule] or of his constitutional rights,” prosecutors wrote. “A pretrial hearing on alleged government leaks, which would itself generate publicity on the very matters that Manafort finds prejudicial, is unwarranted.”
Manafort, a former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, is facing a criminal case brought by Mueller in federal court in Alexandria, Va., for charges of tax and bank fraud.
He asked the judge to identify and punish government officials who he alleged disclosed secret information that was published in reports by the Associated Press, The New York Times, CNN, NBC News and BuzzFeed.
Manafort’s defense filed a motion with U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III stating the release of the information threatened his ability to receive a fair trial.
“By their actions, it is self-evident that the objective of these government sources was to create unfair prejudice against Mr. Manafort and thereby deprive him of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights,” attorneys Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle wrote. “The government’s investigation, and the criminal charges that ultimately resulted from it, are the epitome of a party seeking to decide a case in the press and not the courtroom.”
Mueller’s team issued a response Monday stating there was no reason to believe the news reports were the result of leaked information from the grand jury.
“He cites ten articles, none of which purports to disclose grand jury information,” prosecutors wrote. “Many of the matters reported, if accurate, would have been known to the defense, to witnesses who were interviewed or subpoenaed for documents, or to other investigators examining overlapping issues.”
Prosecutors also gave the judge a secret filing with additional information about one of the articles cited by Manafort, but didn’t specify which article or why it needed to be withheld from Manafort’s defense.