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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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Israel says it has conducted ‘wide-ranging’ air strikes against Hamas

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Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip Friday after shots were fired at troops on the border, the army said, with Hamas reporting three members of its military wing killed.

An army statement said shots were fired at troops during renewed protests along the Gaza-Israel frontier and “in response, (Israeli) aircraft and tanks targeted military targets throughout the Gaza Strip.”

The IDF says its warplanes have carried out ‘wide-ranging’ air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, in response to the earlier gunfire.

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US Secretary of State Pompeo demands “full enforcement of sanctions” on North Korea

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told United Nations Security Council envoys on Friday that there needs to be “concrete actions” by North Korea before an easing of sanctions on Pyongyang can be discussed, said Dutch U.N. Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.

“The secretary made very clear we need concrete deeds, concrete actions and only then we can start the discussion,” van Oosterom told reporters after Pompeo informally briefed envoys from the 15-member council, Japan and South Korea behind closed doors at the South Korea U.N. mission.

(New York Times)

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Michael Cohen Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Payment to Playboy Model

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 President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed the payments with Mr. Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had directed Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, write a check, rather than sending cash, so it could be properly documented.

“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Cohen’s lawyers discovered the recording as part of their review of the seized materials and shared it with Mr. Trump’s lawyers, according to three people briefed on the matter.

“We have nothing to say on this matter,” Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, said when asked about the tape.

(New York Times)

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