Trump ex-aide Manafort pleads not guilty again, faces July trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort again pleaded not guilty on Thursday to criminal charges in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and will face the first of two trials in July.

Manafort pleaded not guilty in a Virginia courtroom to additional charges ranging from bank fraud to filing false tax returns that were brought by Robert Mueller, the U.S. special counsel for the Russia probe.

Manafort also pleaded not guilty last week in Washington to related charges, including conspiracy to launder money, and failing to register as a foreign agent for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government of former President Viktor Yanukovich.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, based in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday set a tentative trial date for July 10. Manafort’s trial in Washington begins in September.

Mueller is investigating alleged Russian interference in the election, possible obstruction of justice and alleged financial crimes by Manafort and others.

Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia, and Moscow says it did not try to interfere in the election.

None of the charges against Manafort make reference to alleged Russian interference in the election nor the accusations of collusion between Moscow and Trump’s campaign.

Paul Manafort (R), former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives for an arraignment at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Manafort has been under increasing pressure to cooperate with Mueller’s probe, especially after his former business partner and former Trump aide Rick Gates pleaded guilty last month to lying to investigators and conspiring to defraud the United States.

Prosecutors in Washington have alleged that Manafort laundered more than $30 million and duped banks into lending money. They say he used funds from secret offshore accounts to enjoy a life of luxury.


Also on Thursday, another of Trump’s former campaign managers, Corey Lewandowski, was interviewed for a second time by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which has its own investigation into possible Russian election meddling.

After the hearing, committee members said Lewandowski had refused to answer many of their questions. Adam Schiff, the panel’s top Democrat, told reporters after the testimony that members of his party had requested that Lewandowski be subpoenaed. Republicans, who control the committee, have not decided whether they would do so.

Lewandowski helped Trump win the Republican presidential nomination, running his campaign for around 18 months. He was fired in June 2016 after he clashed with other advisers over how to appeal to the broader general electorate after Trump won the nomination.

Manafort then ran the campaign for several months.

At Thursday’s hearing, Manafort and his lawyers indicated that he fully intends to contest the charges.

Judge Ellis, expressing concern that Manafort still posed a substantial risk of flight, said he was considering stepping up restrictions on his movement from his current status of home confinement to the home incarceration.

However, the judge agreed that Manafort should still be subject to the less-rigorous home confinement but that he must now wear two wrist bracelets, enabling probation officials based in both Washington and Virginia to monitor his movements.

Lawyers told the judge details of a $10 million bail package was still being finalized, which ultimately could lead to easing of restrictions on Manafort’s movements.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann from Mueller’s office said he expected a Manafort trial on the Virginia charges would last eight to ten days and would involve the calling of 20-25 prosecution witnesses.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson and Mark Hosenball; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Alistair Bell