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Paul Manafort asks judge to investigate leaks after Mueller questions revealed

  • Trump’s ex-campaign chairman blames ‘government officials’
  • Leak suggests special counsel asked about Manafort-Russia links

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Paul Manafort asks judge to investigate leaks after Mueller questions revealed” was written by Jon Swaine, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 1st May 2018 16.00 UTC

Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has asked a judge to investigate leaks about his case, after a list of questions that Trump could face from prosecutors, published by the New York Times, indicated that authorities may have new information linking Manafort to Russia.

Attorneys for Manafort complained in a court filing on Monday evening that “numerous unidentified government officials” had prejudiced his case by leaking information about the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has charged Manafort with several crimes.

“Such leaks impugn the character of the individual under investigation and substantially undermine a fundamental principle of our judicial system; ie, the right of the defendant to have the case determined by an impartial jury on the facts,” said the filing to a federal court in Virginia, where Manafort is charged with bank fraud and filing false tax returns.

Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.

As Manafort’s lawyers filed their request, the New York Times published the leaked questions. One question relating to Manafort stood out as a potential indicator of information not yet publicly known.

It asked: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?”

Most of the questions appeared to focus on whether Trump obstructed justice by interfering with the Russia investigation.

No direct contact between Manafort and Russian government officials has been alleged in court documents filed so far by Mueller’s team. They have accused Manafort of failing to register as an agent for the then pro-Russian government of Ukraine. Manafort’s former business partner, Richard Gates, is cooperating with investigators.

The Times reported that the questions had been read by Mueller’s investigators to the president’s lawyers, who compiled them into a list.

“That document was provided to the Times by a person outside Mr Trump’s legal team,” it said.

John Dean, a White House counsel to Richard Nixon who was jailed for his part in the Watergate scandal, said the leak could itself amount to an “act of obstruction”, by alerting others to what Mueller was investigating.

Dean told CNN late on Monday a Trump ally may have leaked the questions “to try to somehow disrupt the flow of information, the tipping off of witnesses in advance to what the question was going to be”.

Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University and former special counsel at the defense department, described the Manafort question as the “most interesting” on the leaked list and pointed to a CNN report from August 2017 for possible context.

That report said US intelligence agencies had intercepted communications in which suspected Russian spies discussed their efforts to work with Manafort in an attempt to damage Hillary Clinton’s election campaign.

“The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians,” CNN reported, citing unidentified US officials.

Matthew Miller, a former top justice department spokesman, told the Guardian the Manafort question contained the “only new piece of possible evidence” but cautioned that even this might be attributable to an error such as faulty transcription by someone on Trump’s team.

Miller said Trump should not take comfort from the lack of previously undisclosed information in the remaining questions on Mueller’s list.

“The president would be making a huge mistake if he thought these were the only questions he would be asked,” said Miller. “He should be ready to talk about anything. It’s not an ambush to ask you to tell the truth.

“These are broad subject areas that would be followed up with very specific questions based on the evidence Mueller has gathered.”

At Tuesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly declined to comment on the leaked questions. “As with all questions of this nature, I would refer you to the president’s outside personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani,” she said.

Asked if the White House was concerned that Democratic congressman Adam Schiff said most of the questions point to obstruction of justice, Sanders shot back: “We here at the White House try never to be concerned with anything dealing Adam Schiff.”

Additional reporting by David Smith in Washington

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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All Charges Against Jussie Smollett Dropped

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CHICAGO (AP) — Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett say charges alleging he lied to police about an attack have been dropped.


Smollett’s attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes said in a Tuesday morning statement that Smollett’s record “has been wiped clean.” Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs.

A spokeswoman for Cook County prosecutors didn’t immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

Police and prosecutors have said the black and gay actor falsely reported to authorities that he was attacked Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago because he was unhappy with his pay on the Fox show and to promote his career.

The prosecutor who made the surprise decision to drop charges against Empire star Jussie Smollett for allegedly making false assault claims said the dropped and expunged charges are not an indication of the actor’s innocence.

“We didn’t exonerate him,” Joe Magats, the top assistant to Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, said in a statement tweeted out by New York Times correspondent Julie Bosman.

The prosecutor said he “saw no problems with the police investigation or the evidence against Smollett,” Bosman tweeted, adding that the actor’s charges were dropped “in return for his agreement to do community service” and for the forfeiture of “his bond to the city of Chicago.”

“We work to prioritize violent crime and the drivers of violent crime,” Magats said. “Public safety is our number one priority. I don’t see Jussie Smollett as a threat to public safety.”

“We stand behind the investigation, we stand behind the decision to charge him and we stand behind the charges in the case,” the prosecutor said. “The mere fact that it was disposed of in an alternative manner does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities in the case or the evidence.”

Magats’ statement contrasts claims made by Smollett’s lawyers, who said the dropped and expunged charges were not part of a deal and that the actor would not be doing any additional community service.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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Guns In America

US Chief Justice John Roberts Rejects Bid To Halt Trump Bump Stock Ban

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday rejected a bid by gun rights activists to put on hold President Donald Trump’s administration’s ban on “bump stock” gun attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to be fired rapidly.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor has not yet acted on another similar request.

The ban goes into effect on Tuesday but lower courts have yet to rule on an appeals brought by gun rights activists. An appeals court in Washington already has said that the ban will not go into effect in relation to the specific people and groups involved in that case.

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Gun Rights Groups Ask Supreme Court To Halt Trump Bump Stock Ban

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Gun rights groups are asking the Supreme Court to stop the Trump administration from beginning to enforce its ban on bump stock devices, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns.


The groups asked the court Monday to get involved in the issue and keep the government from beginning to enforce the ban for now. The ban set to go into effect Tuesday has put the Trump administration in the unusual position of arguing against gun rights groups. It’s unclear how quickly the court will act.

President Donald Trump said last year that the government would move to ban bump stocks. The action followed a 2017 shooting in Las Vegas in which a gunman attached bump stocks to assault-style rifles he used to shoot concertgoers. Fifty-eight people were killed.

Developing…this will be updated.

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