A federal judge on Friday ordered Paul Manafort to be held in jail pending trial, landing a significant legal blow to the former Trump campaign chairman in his battle with the special counsel Robert Mueller.
Prosecutors with the special counsel asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revise Manafort’s bail conditions last week after Mueller presented evidence that Manafort had contacted and, they allege, tampered with potential witnesses.
Manafort’s previous bail agreement allowed him to remain on home confinement with a GPS ankle monitor.
“I struggled with this decision,” Jackson said. “I have no appetite for this. In the end, I can’t turn a blind eye to these allegations” against Manafort, the judge said.
The special counsel has hit Manafort with three superseding indictments in two federal courts – Washington, DC, and Virginia – amounting to more than 40 charges related to money laundering, tax and bank fraud, conspiracy, and other financial crimes that largely predate his time on the Trump campaign.
During Manafort’s court hearing Friday morning, an attorney on the special counsel’s team, Greg Andres, characterized Manafort outreach to possible witnesses as “a sustained campaign,” adding that nothing short of jail could prevent Manafort from repeating the alleged infraction.
“The government takes the position that there are no conditions that rebut the finding that Manafort is a danger to the community,” Andres argued.
Richard Westling, an attorney for Manafort, rebutted that claim, asking the judge to consider additional bail conditions that would allow Manafort to remain on home confinement.
“A clear no-contact order will solve the problem,” Westling suggested.
Upon learning the news, sources close to President Trump’s legal team tell ABC News they were “stunned” by the decision.
Ahead of Friday’s hearing, the president weighed in on Manafort’s legal struggles insisting that Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for six months, played a limited role in the campaign.
“Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign,” Trump told reporters gathered on the White House north lawn on Friday, adding, “Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.”
Legal experts told ABC News this week that Mueller’s pressure on Manafort is likely an effort to persuade him to cut a deal for leniency in exchange for testimony about others, possibly including President Donald Trump.