New documents outline why Manafort, Gates were feared as flight risks

Newly disclosed documents filed in the case against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates lay out the government’s reasons for treating the indicted men as flight risks.

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Manafort and Gates, both men of substantial wealth and with considerable foreign contacts, are facing 188 and 151 months in prison, respectively, according to the federal sentencing guidelines described by prosecutors. The Special Counsel’s Office argued, “The possibility of prison sentences in these ranges alone establishes a risk of flight as to both defendants.”

Federal Magistrate Deborah Robinson agreed, ordering that both surrender their passports and be placed on house arrest.

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The government also asserts in the filings that both men “lied repeatedly to financial bookkeepers, tax accountants, legal counsel, and the government to further their scheme.”

Some of those lies, the government alleges, had to do with filings required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) that Manafort and Gates submitted in November 2016 and February 2017 with the help of an attorney.

“The Chief Judge recently found that the government made a prima facie showing the defendants used their former attorney (who was not complicit) to convey this false and misleading information to the Department of Justice,” the Special Counsels Office (SCO) states in its conditions of release memo.

The new filings also disclose that Chief Judge Beryl Howell ordered the attorney to testify before the grand jury, effectively pushing aside the attorney-client privilege.

Dana Verkouteren via APA court artist drawing shows President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, center standing and Manafort’s business associate, Rick Gates, in federal court in Washington, Oct. 30, 2017, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson.

“When a person uses the attorney-client relationship to further a criminal scheme, the law is well established that a claim of attorney-client or work-product privilege must yield to the grand jury’s investigatory needs,” Howell wrote in his memorandum opinion.

“The Court finds that the SCO has made a sufficient prima facie showing that the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client and work-product privileges applies,” Howell added.

To some legal observers, this is another sign that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is playing hardball.

“They are sending a signal of being aggressive,” said former federal prosecutor and ABC News consultant Matt Olsen.

“This is an indication that the investigation is going to turn over every stone and is not going to let any so-called claim of privilege get in the way of finding out the truth,” Olsen added. “Attorney client privilege is not a shield to protect ongoing criminal wrongdoing.”