Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office is trying to block an investigation into how anonymously sourced accounts of their investigation leaked to the media, claiming the leaks don’t amount to evidence of illegal grand jury leaks – which could just as easily come from defense attorneys in the Paul Manafort case or others outside the investigation, reports Politico.
Mueller’s team has asked a federal judge in Virginia to turn down a request for a hearing on the leaks, requested by attorneys representing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“Manafort’s speculative claim of improper conduct falls far short of the showing necessary to warrant a hearing on potential violations of [a grand jury secrecy rule] or of his constitutional rights,” prosecutors wrote. “A pretrial hearing on alleged government leaks, which would itself generate publicity on the very matters that Manafort finds prejudicial, is unwarranted.”
“By their actions, it is self-evident that the objective of these government sources was to create unfair prejudice against Mr. Manafort and thereby deprive him of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights,” attorneys Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle wrote. “The government’s investigation, and the criminal charges that ultimately resulted from it, are the epitome of a party seeking to decide a case in the press and not the courtroom.”
Politico posits that whether or not Manafort’s claim has legal merit, his claim that the leaks have hurt his case “could bolster his chances of winning a pardon from President Donald Trump, who has railed against leaks he alleges have emerged from the Mueller investigation.”
Mueller’s team, on the other hand, says that there’s no reason to believe the news accounts identified by Manafort’s defense team came from prosecutors or investigators leaking information that came from a grand jury.