In a bizarre turn in the continuing saga of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, it appears that he broke his bail terms by trying to ghostwrite an editorial with a Russia-connected confidante.
He did what?
According to a filing by special counsel Robert Mueller Monday, Manafort was in the process of writing an opinion-editorial "to influence public opinion."
"As late as November 30, 2017, Manafort and a colleague were ghostwriting an editorial in English regarding his political work for Ukraine," the filing said. "Manafort worked on the draft with a longtime Russian colleague of Manafort’s, who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service."
Manafort had been warned "from making statements that could interfere with the fair trial to which the government and the defense are entitled," and made no objection, said Mueller.
What was Manafort writing about?
The filing claims Manafort was surreptitiously trying to influence public opinion about his own case.
"Even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would be a violation of this Court’s November 8 Order if it had been published," Mueller wrote. "The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of defendant Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication (much less for Manafort and his longtime associate to ghostwrite it in another’s name)."
"It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts," it concluded.
What was the reaction?
Many were confused by the bizarre and seemingly inexplicable legal threat Manafort had placed himself under, for very little public benefit.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) called Manafort's actions "deeply foolish" and "stunning" in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
Sen. Chris Coons reacts to Paul Manafort news: “That is deeply foolish. Clearly he’s not listening to his lawyers, or he’s more afraid of the Russians than he is of federal prosecution in the United States” https://t.co/N8z4yP2PLh https://t.co/t9nCAApOQp
— CNN (@CNN) December 4, 2017
What is Manafort charged with?
The former Trump campaign manager is charged with 12 counts, including conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy against the United States. He was the first publicly indicted figure in Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election and alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.