Judge bars public from jury selection for ex-Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort's next trial, postpones opening statements 

Key Points
  • Opening statements in the second trial of ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort will be held Sept. 24, Judge Amy Berman Jackson says.
  • Jury selection for Manafort's trial on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller will still begin Sept. 17, however.
  • Mueller has until Wednesday to decide whether to have Manafort retried on 10 counts in a separate trial in Alexandria, Virginia.
Judge delays opening statements in Paul Manafort's next trial

A federal judge on Tuesday said she would bar the press and other members of the public from jury selection for the second trial of Paul Manafort, and also delayed until Sept. 24 opening statements in the case of the ex-Trump campaign chief.

But jury selection for Manafort's next trial on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller will still begin Sept. 17 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C, where the long-time Republican operative is charged with money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.

However, defense lawyers at a hearing in that court said they plan to file a motion seeking to move the trial out of Washington because of the huge amount of publicity about Manafort, who was convicted Aug. 21 of eight criminal counts in a separate trial in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort lost a bid to have his first trial moved from Alexandria.

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Judge Amy Berman Jackson, while telling the defense team it was free to make that request, noted that the case has received attention nationally, and also pointed out that the court in Washington has hosted previous high-profile case. Still, Jackson's decision to bar the public from watching jury selection was based on the judge's desire to protect the privacy of potential jurors.

Manafort is the first person charged by Mueller to go trial. The charges against him in Washington and in Virginia are related to his consulting work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine which predated his tenure with the Trump campaign in 2016.

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Jackson said her decision to postpone the date of opening statements represented a compromise between Manafort's lawyers and Mueller.

Manafort's defense team, citing the need for more time to prepare for the case, had requested a one-week delay in the start of the trial, which begins with jury selection. Mueller's team of prosecutors wanted to hew to the original Sept. 17 start date.

Jury selection could take several days to complete.

Andrew Weismann, a prosecutor, told Jackson on Tuesday that the prosecution does not plan to make any references to the Trump campaign during his presentation of evidence.

Manafort, 69, who is being held in jail without bond, has pleaded not guilty in the case. He did not appear, by his own choice, at Tuesday's hearing.

A jury in Virginia federal court convicted him last week of tax and bank fraud, but deadlocked on 10 other charges.

Mueller has until Wednesday to decide whether to have Manafort retried on those counts.

Before his conviction in Virginia, Manafort's defense team talked to prosecutors about possibly avoiding a second trial in Washington by having Manafort plead guilty in the case, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

But the two sides failed to come to terms about that plea deal, according to the Journal.

Manafort, who did not testify in his first trial, is not expected to take the witness stand in the Washington case. The proposed jury instructions in the Washington case include the words: "Every defendant in a criminal case has an absolute right not to testify. Mr. Manafort has chosen to exercise this right."

Prosecutors have said they have assembled more than 1,500 pieces of evidence for the case — almost four times the amount of exhibits presented by both sides in the Virginia trial.

Mueller is continuing to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as possible collusion between the Kremlin and President Donald Trump's campaign.

Trump has repeatedly denied any coordination with Russia by his campaign.

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