• Defense files bail request before Nov. 6 court hearing

  • Ex-Trump campaign chief on home confinement after indictment

Paul Manafort, the indicted former campaign chairman of President Donald Trump, explained in a pre-trial court filing why he traveled to China and other countries with a mobile phone registered to an alias, and why he had three passports.

Prosecutors cited the phone and multiple passports in saying that Manafort posed a risk of fleeing the U.S. after his Oct. 27 indictment on charges that he and his right-hand man, Rick Gates, concealed their work as agents of Ukraine, laundered millions of dollars and hid offshore accounts.

“While some reports have painted this as though Mr. Manafort is akin to a 68-year-old ‘Jason Bourne’ character, the facts are much more mundane,” his attorneys said, referring to the fictional former CIA assassin created by novelist Robert Ludlum, and portrayed in several movies by actor Matt Damon.  

In the filing on Saturday, Manafort’s lawyers asked a judge to modify the bail terms while offering to post $12.5 million in assets and arguing he poses no risk of flight. They said Manafort traveled to China and elsewhere with a phone registered to an alias -- his brother’s name -- because he wanted to maintain confidentiality while working as a political consultant to high-profile clients.

Phone Alias

“It is common practice for many U.S. citizens who travel abroad on business and pleasure to defend themselves against potential hacking, and confiscation, of their electronic devices and data,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote in the filing in federal court in Washington. This doesn’t show a “heightened potential for risk of flight,” they said.

Manafort had one passport for travel and a second one “to submit with visa applications to certain foreign countries,” according to his lawyers, Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle. He lost the first passport and obtained a third one before finding the original one months later, at which point he told the State Department about his discovery.

Manafort and Gates were among the first people charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election. Both Manafort, who faces up as many as 15 1/2 years in prison, and Gates, who faces 12 1/2 years, pleaded not guilty on Oct. 30. They’re confined to their homes and subject to electronic monitoring. 

Manafort may owe $10 million if he violates his release terms, while Gates could owe $5 million if he violates his terms. Both have asked for relaxed terms, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will hear their arguments on Monday.

Manafort’s Pledges

In his filing, Manafort asked that he be allowed to travel to Washington, New York, Virginia and Florida, which was described as his primary residence. He pledged not to travel overseas. He also offered to pledge his $3 million apartment in Trump Tower in New York; a $3.5 million apartment in lower Manhattan; a $1.5 million home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; and life insurance policies worth $4.5 million.

Manafort’s lawyers gave some hints about his financial condition. They said the $18 million in assets that prosecutors seek to seize if he’s convicted “would wipe out a substantial portion of Mr. Manafort’s wealth accumulated over a lifetime of work.”

They also said that accounts in Cyprus that are the focus of much of the indictment “have been closed or have relatively nominal balances” because his work in Ukraine ended in 2014.

Prosecutors haven’t agreed to the terms as Manafort has had some difficulty assembling supporting documentation, according to the filing. The Mueller team’s response is due Sunday.

The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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