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Mueller's Team Worried That Paul Manafort And Rick Gates Would Flee Or Destroy Evidence

Prosecutors want a judge to impose "substantial" bail conditions on Manafort and Gates, arguing that they pose "serious" flight risks.

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Court documents unsealed on Tuesday show that special counsel Robert Mueller's team was worried that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates would flee or destroy evidence once they learned criminal charges were filed against them.

On Oct. 27, according to one of the newly unsealed documents, prosecutors asked a federal magistrate judge to keep the indictment returned against Manafort and Gates and other court records sealed until at least one of the men was in custody. A judge granted the request.

"Law enforcement believes that publicity resulting from disclosure of the Indictment and related materials on the public record will increase the defendants' incentive to flee and destroy (or tamper with) evidence," attorneys from Mueller's team wrote in a motion. "It is therefore essential that any information concerning the defendants' facing a pending indictment in this district be kept sealed for the time being."

Manafort and Gates self-surrendered on Monday. They face a 12-count indictment that includes charges of money laundering, failing to report overseas bank accounts, failing to register as lobbyists for foreign entities, and making false statements to the Justice Department.

On Monday, a redacted version of the indictment was unsealed and Manafort and Gates appeared in court at a public hearing, but the rest of the docket and court documents remained sealed. On Tuesday, the government asked that all records in the case be made public except for the unredacted indictment. The judge agreed.

In new court papers filed on Tuesday, the special counsel's office further explained why it believed that Manafort and Gates were, and continue to be, flight risks. The government will not ask that the two men be placed in jail while the criminal case goes forward, but instead want the judge to impose "substantial" bail conditions.

"The defendants pose a risk of flight based on the serious nature of the charges, their history of deceptive and misleading conduct, the potentially significant sentences the defendants face, the strong evidence of guilt, their significant financial resources, and their foreign connections," prosecutors wrote.

Manafort and Gates are under home confinement until their next court appearance, scheduled for Nov. 2. They were allowed to self-surrender on Monday on the condition that they surrender their passports once they learned about the warrants for their arrest and notify the FBI about their movements.

The special counsel's office wrote in Tuesday's filing that Manafort's financial assets were "substantial" but also difficult to precisely tally because he had listed varying information in financial documents. In August 2016, for instance, Manafort represented the value of his assets as being $63 million and $28 million in different documents, according to the government.

In arguing for steep bail conditions, the special counsel's office noted that Manafort and Gates have significant ties abroad, and connections to Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs who previously paid them millions of dollars.

"Foreign connections of this kind indicate that the defendants would have access to funds and an ability 'to live comfortably' abroad," prosecutors wrote.

In footnotes, prosecutors said Manafort earlier this year registered a phone and an email account under an alias, and had traveled overseas with the phone, and that he has three US passports with different numbers.

Lawyers for Manafort and Gates did not immediately return requests for comment.


Zoe Tillman is a legal reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Zoe Tillman at zoe.tillman@buzzfeed.com.

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