WASHINGTON — The initial potential witness list for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s first trial includes Tad Devine, a former presidential campaign strategist for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who like Manafort did lobbying work for Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions, and Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime business partner who cut a plea deal with prosecutors earlier this year.
Devine was among the consultants who helped Manafort in Viktor Yanukovych’s 2010 presidential campaign. The two worked together on Ukrainian projects off and on through 2014.
The 35-person list also includes Manafort’s former personal assistant, Alex Trusko, who has long been cooperating with investigators, as well as Manafort’s real estate agent Wayne Holland, Daniel Opsut of Mercedes-Benz of Alexandria, director of ticket operations for the New York Yankees Irfan Kirimca, and Airbnb Inc.’s director of customer experience Darin Evenson.
Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III approved special counsel Robert Mueller’s immunity list for five witnesses: James Brennan, Donna Duggan, Conor O’Brien, Cindy Laporta, and Dennis Raico. All five are tied to Manafort’s finances; Laporta works for, and O’Brien used to work for, Virginia firm Kositzka, Wicks and Company, which told VICE News that they prepared individual and business tax returns for Manafort. Brennan and Raico are believed to have worked for the Federal Savings Bank that gave $16 million in mortgage loans to Manafort. Duggan may be linked to a Maryland insurance company.
The list doesn’t indicate that all 35 of these people would be called to testify in court.
Manafort was originally supposed to go to trial in Virginia on July 10. That was delayed until July 25 to allow the defense additional time to prepare. Another delay bumped the start of the trial to this upcoming Tuesday.
He is charged in separate Eastern District of Virginia and District of Columbia cases with a raft of counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, making false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements, in addition to the obstruction charge. His D.C. trial is scheduled for September.
Manafort’s team has wanted the trial delayed by months and moved from the Beltway to Roanoke, Va., arguing there are too many Hillary Clinton voters in Alexandria, Va., to put together an impartial jury. In a recorded prison call included in earlier documents filed by Mueller’s team, Manafort discussed trying to get his D.C. trial to occur first and told the other party to “think about how it’ll play elsewhere….There is a strategy to it, even in failure, but there’s a hope in it.” Manafort further argued a delay in Virginia was needed to allow “passions to cool.”
Manafort was sent to jail June 15 as a judge agreed there was no way to restrain the lobbyist from alleged witness tampering if he remained on the outside.
The third District of Columbia superseding indictment against Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik of Moscow added obstruction of justice charges, alleging they “knowingly and intentionally attempted to corruptly persuade” two people associated with Manafort’s lobbying operation “with intent to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding.”
Manafort’s attorneys argued that his “innocuous” contacts with witnesses was twisted into a “sinister plot” of witness tampering by prosecutors.
Manafort was on Trump’s campaign team from March to August 2016, starting as a delegate-wrangler and serving as campaign manager in the last three months. Former Trump campaign aide Gates came on board with Manafort and stayed for the duration of the campaign, later serving as deputy chairman for Trump’s inaugural committee and then starting a pro-Trump PAC.
Gates struck a plea deal in February on a series of charges similar to what Manafort is facing.