Mueller seeks immunity for 5 witnesses

Glen Norman
July 21, 2018

The special counsel in the Russian Federation investigation is seeking immunity for five potential witnesses in the upcoming trial of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. He indicated that the witnesses would invoke their Fifth Amendment rights unless they were granted immunity, and requested that the immunity motions be sealed. Their names will be made public only if they are called to testify, according to the filing.

His Virginia trial is slated to begin next week, though his lawyers are seeking to delay it and will argue for the delay in a hearing on July 23 before Judge T.S. Ellis for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Also Tuesday, Ellis denied Manafort's request to move the trial from Alexandria, in suburban Washington D.C., to the more sparsely populated southwestern Virginia city of Roanoke. That means the government couldn't use their statements against them.

"Disclosing the motions would reveal those individuals' involvement in the investigation and the trial, thereby creating the risk of undue harassment", prosecutors wrote.

Manafort is scheduled for trial on financial charges starting next week in Alexandria, Virginia. Prosecutors asked for the court to compel the witnesses to testify.

He said there was no evidence that potential jurors in the region were politically biased, and that in any event, jurors' political leanings by themselves aren't evidence that they can't fairly consider a case.

In a ruling Tuesday, Ellis says there's no reason to think Manafort can't get a fair trial in Alexandria.

Ellis also rejected Manafort's argument that media coverage of his case would be especially harmful around Washington, a major media market where people follow the news closely.

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