Alexandria, Virginia, is too liberal to seat impartial jurors for the money-laundering trial of President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort later this month, his lawyer says.
Attorney Kevin Downing has filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis to move the proceedings south to more rural Roanoke, Virginia, 240 miles from Washington, because of intense negative pre-trial publicity in the D.C. area.
“Nowhere in the country is the bias against Mr. Manafort more apparent than here in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area,” he said.
Mr. Downing also complained that Judge Ellis is using too small a juror pool of 60 and not asking a sufficient number of questions to weed out bias against his Republican client.
Mr. Downing presented data that showed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carried the Alexandria voting district, 66 percent to 34 percent. The city is made up of politically aware citizens who have likely read the mountains of news articles that paint Mr. Manafort in a negative light, he said.
His motion says Judge Ellis has denied his request that jurors be asked for whom they voted and what publications they read.
He said a Google search shows nearly 3 million stories on Russia interference in the 2016 election and 1.3 million related to Mr. Manafort.
“Reviewing these articles, one is hard pressed to find any that are not unfavorable to Mr. Manafort,” he said. “The news coverage here has contained prejudicial information “
Mr. Downing previously filed a motion attacking major media outlets for reporting that U.S. intelligence intercepts exist of Mr. Manafort communicating with Russian government officials. Mr. Downing said special counsel Robert Mueller has told him during evidence discovery that he possesses no such information....“Mr. Manafort submits that a fair trial will be impossible without a change of venue to Roanoke, Virginia,” Mr. Downing said, where the voter bias “split is more balanced.”Mr. Manafort was indicted in Virginia on charges of money laundering and income tax evasion stemming from millions of dollars he collected as a political consultant in Ukraine the past decade.Mr. Manafort faces the same charges in U.S. District Court in the District, where the juror pool also will be decidedly liberal. Mrs. Clinton carried the city with 91 percent of the vote.With trial set for September, the federal judge ordered Mr. Manafort confined to his cell after the special counsel’s office accused him of witness tampering for reaching out to two witnesses.