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15:45, 09 July 2018

Manafort filing unmasks DOJ meeting with AP reporters, questions if &#039grand jury secrecy&#039 violated

Manafort filing unmasks DOJ meeting with AP reporters, concerns if &#039grand jury secrecy&#039 violated

Lawyers for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are raising concerns about a 2017 meeting in between best law enforcement figures and Associated Press reporters, questioning whether or not &ldquogrand jury secrecy&rdquo was violated and revealing memos that say the reporters even supplied investigators a &ldquocode&rdquo pertaining to their client&rsquos storage facility.&nbsp

The information emerged in a series of current filings, like an effort by Manafort’s attorneys to get his criminal trial moved from Northern Virginia, citing pretrial publicity.&nbsp

&ldquoMr. Manafort’s legal troubles and the attendant every day media coverage have grow to be a theatre in the continuing controversy surrounding President Trump and his election,&quot Manafort’s lawyers wrote Judge T.S. Ellis, who is overseeing the bank and tax fraud case in Northern Virginia. A second prosecution, involving equivalent charges, is underway in Washington, D.C.&nbsp

Arguing for a trial in Roanoke, Va., Manafort’s legal team mentioned an &ldquoinside-the-beltway jury&rdquo would be biased against their client.

But Manafort&rsquos defense also is seeking a hearing on the April 2017 meeting involving FBI and Justice Division officials and four AP reporters &ndash following his group for months has argued that improper leaks to the media have place him at a disadvantage.&nbsp

The current filing includes two newly disclosed FBI memos documenting the April 2017 meeting. It integrated 3 FBI agents a Justice Department trial lawyer an assistant U.S. attorney and Andrew Weissmann, then chief of the DOJ&rsquos fraud division just before he moved on to Unique Counsel Robert Mueller&rsquos Russia probe. The meeting also integrated 4 AP reporters: Chad Day, Jack Gillum, Ted Bridis and Eric Tucker.&nbsp

&quotThe meeting raises critical issues about no matter whether a violation of grand jury secrecy occurred,&rdquo Manafort&rsquos lawyers wrote in the filing. &quotNow based on the FBI’s own notes of the meeting, it is beyond question that a hearing is warranted.&quot

Although both FBI memos state the meeting was &quotoff the record&quot and not for reporting, they recommend the AP did get some details.&nbsp

&ldquoAt the conclusion of the meeting, the AP reporters asked if we would be willing to inform them if they have been [off base] or on the wrong [track] and they have been advised that they appeared to have a very good understanding of Manafort’s organization dealings,&rdquo FBI agent Karen A. Greenaway writes.

The following day, the AP reported an exclusive story titled, &ldquoManafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout.&rdquo Two reporters at the meeting shared the byline with a third journalist.&nbsp

The memo written by senior FBI agent Greenaway is seven pages extended and offers the most detail about the meeting. Greenaway states that the April 2017 meeting was arranged by Weissmann and the &quotpurpose of the meeting, as it was explained to SSA Greenaway, was to get documents from the AP reporters that were associated to their investigative reports on Paul Manafort.&quot There is no indication from the memo that the AP shared or allowed federal investigators to assessment their records.

Nevertheless, the FBI memo describes how the reporters discussed specifics of their wide-ranging investigation into Manafort, telling officials &quotthey had located a storage facility in Virginia that belonged to Manafort&quot &ndash and providing &quotthe code to the lock on the locker.&quot Greenaway claims the reporters knew the locker unit number and address but declined to share that piece of information.&nbsp&nbsp

A second FBI agent penned a shorter memo about the meeting that differs on a key point. Agent Jeffery Pfeiffer says the reporters presented the &quotgate code&quot to access the storage unit.

The identical agent recently testified that a tip from the AP may possibly have been a essential improvement leading to the identification of Manafort’s Virginia storage locker that was later searched. On the stand, Pfeiffer mentioned he was not confident whether or not the tip might have come from the FBI’s personal investigation.&nbsp &nbsp

Fox News asked the AP if it accepted or disputed the FBI’s account of the April 2017 meeting, and whether or not there was a connection to their Manafort report a day later. There was no quick response from the AP, but last month in connection with a similar inquiry, a spokesperson mentioned the reporters had been undertaking their job.


&ldquoAssociated Press journalists met with representatives from the Department of Justice in an work to get details on stories they were reporting, as reporters do,&rdquo an AP spokesperson explained. &ldquoDuring the course of the meeting, they asked DOJ representatives about a storage locker belonging to Paul Manafort, with no sharing its name or place.&quot

Meanwhile, on the reporters&rsquo inquiries about Manafort&rsquos business activities involving Cyprus, one particular FBI memo states, &quotFBI/DOJ did not respond, but Andrew Weissmann suggested that they ask the Cypriots if they had offered every thing to which they had access or if they only provided what they were legally required to give.&quot

The reporters also offered to the FBI and DOJ officials that [Russian oligarch Oleg] &ldquoDeripaska’s existing lawyer is threatening to sue them over their post about his partnership with Manafort.&quot The FBI agent notes that, just prior to the April meeting, Deripaska took out a newspaper ad denouncing the AP reporting.

Manafort’s lawyers first requested records about the 2017 meeting, such as notes documenting the discussion, in January and February, telling Judge Ellis that the unique counsel&rsquos workplace made the FBI memos only inside the last two weeks:

&quotOn January 23, 2018 and again on February 21, 2018 &hellip Mr. Manafort&rsquos defense team sent letters to the Office of Unique Counsel (&lsquoOSC&rsquo) requesting data with regards to contacts between the government, such as members of the prosecution group or the OSC, and the media. No info was supplied with respect to Mr. Manafort&rsquos request until final Friday, in anticipation of this Court&rsquos hearing about potential governments leaks to the media. The OSC produced two FBI electronic communications relating to an April 11, 2017, meeting amongst prosecutors from the Department of Justice, supervisory specific agents, particular agents from the FBI International Corruption Unit, and reporters for the Related Press.&rdquo

A spokesman for the special counsel&rsquos office did not right away respond when asked for comment about the alleged delay, and no matter whether Weissmann is now considered a prospective witness. At the most current Manafort hearing in Virginia, Weissmann was not seated at the prosecution table.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Division and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Published at Mon, 09 Jul 2018 11:16:00 +0000

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