Judge Worries Paul Manafort Is A Flight Risk, Admonishes His Lawyer

“This is a criminal trial,” the judge said. “It’s not a public relations campaign.”

WASHINGTON ― The federal judge who will oversee the prosecution of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager said Thursday that she has “concerns” that Paul Manafort poses a flight risk, questioning whether an unsecured bond was enough to make sure he’d show up in court.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson also admonished Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing for his statement to the media outside the courthouse following Manafort’s first court appearance on Monday morning.

“This is a criminal trial,” Jackson said. “It’s not a public relations campaign.” Lawyers, she said, should make their arguments in court “not on the courthouse steps.”

Jackson said she was considering issuing a gag order in the case under a rule allowing such an order to be put in place in widely publicized trials. 

The appearances of Manafort and his associate Richard Gates in court on Thursday focused on the conditions of their release. Both had initially been released on multimillion-dollar unsecured bonds, meaning they would only have to pay up if they skip out.

Jackson indicated on Thursday that something more may be required, saying she was “very concerned” that an unsecured bond in and of itself was not sufficient. She indicated she was open to lifting the conditions of house arrest, but seemed skeptical of removing the electronic monitoring. 

“I have concerns about flight,” Jackson said.

Jackson did say she would allow Gates to leave his home on Saturday and Sunday to attend his children’s sports games, but she left the house arrest conditions in place until Monday’s hearing. 

Manafort’s lawyer proposed a trial set for April 2018, but the judge wasn’t quite ready to commit to a schedule.

Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty this past Monday. Both were charged by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference with the 2016 election. 


Ryan Reilly is HuffPost’s senior justice reporter, covering criminal justice, federal law enforcement and legal affairs. Have a tip? Reach him at ryan.reilly@huffingtonpost.com or on Signal at 202-527-9261.