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Mueller Pulls Bail Deal Support After Manafort 'Ghostwriting' Op-Ed with Russian Intel-Linked Colleague

President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort arrives at the federal courthouse Nov. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating potential Trump campaign connections to Russia withdrew its support for a deal that would have eased former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s bail conditions after the lobbyist was discovered ghostwriting an op-ed with a colleague tied to Russian intelligence.

On Thursday, Manafort’s team filed a motion to modify the conditions of his release, saying their client and the Office of the Special Counsel reached an agreement under which Manafort would be released from home confinement and GPS monitoring. Manafort agreed to forfeit four of his properties — a Bridgehampton, N.Y., residence valued at $4 million, a
New York City property worth $3.7 million, a Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., home worth $1.25 million, and his Alexandria, Va., residence worth $2.7 million — if he violates his bail, with his wife and daughter as sureties.

“Immediate family members are therefore personally responsible for substantial payments to the Court should Mr. Manafort not appear as required and should the fair market value of the pledged properties fall below what has been documented,” the court filing said.

His travel would be limited to Florida, New York and Virginia, along with court appearances in D.C., it continued. “Mr. Manafort’s current home confinement to his Alexandria residence – set during his initial appearance in this case – was viewed as a short-term interim step by the parties as they continued to work out agreed-upon conditions of release to recommend to the Court. And, to be clear, GPS monitoring was never sought nor requested by either party.”

The motion stated that Manafort will not attempt international travel, though he “has substantial business and business contacts overseas, and this restriction will undoubtedly affect his ability to secure and retain work from abroad.”

Manafort and top aide Rick Gates have pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Manafort relinquished his passport and was placed under house arrest; his bail was set at $10 million. Gates’ bail was set at $5 million.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a motion today opposing the deal, saying circumstances have changed since the government consented to the arrangement.

Mueller said that as late as Thursday, the day of the defense motion, “Manafort and a colleague were ghostwriting an editorial in English regarding his political work for Ukraine.”

“Manafort worked on the draft with a long-time Russian colleague of Manafort’s, who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service,” he added, stressing that “even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced” it would be a violation of the court’s order to parties and counsel to “refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”

“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 long-time associate to ghostwrite it in another’s name),” the filing adds. “It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts.”

Mueller’s office moved to file the draft op-ed separately under seal to prevent the contents from becoming public along with the motion. His office also reached out to Manafort’s team about the op-ed Thursday night and said they were assured its publication would be stopped.

“Because Manafort has now taken actions that reflect an intention to violate or circumvent the Court’s existing Orders, at a time one would expect particularly scrupulous adherence, the government submits that the proposed bail package is insufficient reasonably to assure his appearance as required,” Mueller added.

“…The proposed bail package does not provide for a surety who is not a close family member. It does not provide for GPS monitoring. And it does not provide for a fully secured bond of unencumbered real estate. The Bridgehampton property, which is the largest of the assets in the proposed bail package, is already subject to forfeiture in the Indictment, and has a lis pendens filed against it.”