WASHINGTON – Lawyers for Paul Manafort want to know where his prospective jurors get their news, how they vote and what they know about the one-time Trump campaign chairman charged with bank fraud and filing false tax returns.
Those and other proposed questions were submitted to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III on Monday in advance of Manafort’s Alexandria federal court trial set to start July 25. He’s accused of concealing income from years of work done to benefit now-former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Barring a plea deal, it will be the first of special counsel Robert Mueller’s cases to go the distance.
Defense attorneys maintain their client has been the victim of saturation media coverage, much of it negative. Ellis rejected their bid last week for a hearing on whether high level public officials have leaked classified and grand jury information, recommending that perhaps they seek a change of venue instead.
The judge, a Ronald Reagan appointee, told lawyers for both sides at the June 29 hearing that he’d be the one to question jurors about their knowledge of the case — with input from the parties — and probe for evidence of bias.
Manafort’s team submitted 27 proposed questions to the judge while Mueller’s team suggested 22, many with multiple subparts. Among the prosecutors’ concerns: whether a juror thinks tax laws are unconstitutional and if anything about the special counsel’s office itself would prevent the rendering of a fair and impartial verdict.
A second trial is scheduled for Sept. 17 in Washington. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.