Mueller Wants Manafort Jury to Hear of Lobbying Decades Ago

August 4, 2018

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller argued that jurors who will weigh whether Paul Manafort illegally lobbied for Ukraine should also hear about his work three decades ago for Saudi Arabia and other nations.

Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, is charged in Washington with failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine, laundering millions of dollars, and obstructing justice. Mueller asked a judge Wednesday to let him introduce evidence at trial about the Saudi lobbying as a prior “bad act,” showing Manafort’s “absence of mistake or accident” in failing to register his Ukrainian work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.

Prosecutors want jurors to hear about Manafort’s interactions with the Justice Department over FARA in the mid-1980s when he was at firms including Black Manafort Stone and Kelly.

Manafort registered under FARA as a Saudi agent from June 1984 through June 1986, even though he was a director of a federal agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, according to the filing. Federal law barred public officials from acting as registered agents of foreign principals, and President Ronald Reagan’s administration refused to grant Manafort an exemption, prosecutors said. Manafort resigned from OPIC in May 1986.

But while Manafort argued at the time that he hadn’t personally lobbied — only his firm had — a Justice Department inspection found 18 lobbying and public-relations activities that weren’t reported on his FARA filings, according to the filing in federal court in Washington.

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“These omissions included memoranda summarizing lobbying by Manafort of Congress and the White House regarding a ‘Jerusalem Bill’ and a ‘Saudi Arms package,’ dissemination of press articles to Congress, lobbying of the National Security Council, and talking points” for phone calls on a pending Saudi munitions sale, according to the filing.

The inspection also revealed “a number of deficiencies” in his firm’s work on behalf of 10 foreign principals, including The Bahamas and Saint Lucia, according to the filing. A Justice Department report described a media plan to get Bahamian materials to the media.

“The inspection report noted that BMSK’s counsel confirmed this activity during meetings” and found that the firm’s FARA filings had to disclose the activity.

Manafort faces a Sept. 17 trial in Washington. He’s also scheduled to go on trial July 25 in Alexandria, Virginia, on charges of bank fraud and tax crimes.

The Manafort cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington), and 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

(Updates with excerpt of filing in sixth paragraph.)

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