Former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova warned Tuesday that Paul Manafort cannot get a fair trial in the nation’s capital on charges filed against him by special counsel Robert Mueller because of the politically charged nature of his case and the pervasive bias against President Donald Trump.
“Paul Manafort cannot get a fair trial in the District of Columbia,” diGenova told host Laura Ingraham on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Tuesday morning. “We now know from the Scooter Libby case and the interviews with jurors after that case that two-thirds of the jurors in the Scooter Libby case hated the president of the United States, hated Dick Cheney, wanted to know why Cheney wasn’t in the docket along with Scooter Libby.”
“There is no way a Republican gets a fair trial in a politically charged case like this in the District of Columbia,” added diGenova.
DiGenova was referring to Scooter Libby, a former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007 in an investigation involving who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA agent. Libby insisted on his innocence and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage eventually confessed to being the individual who leaked Plame’s name.
President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence in 2007, and Trump pardoned him in 2017 after diGenova’s wife, Victoria Toensing, approached the White House Counsel’s office on Libby’s behalf.
Manafort previously worked for a few months as chairman of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Manafort has been a main target of Mueller’s probe into allegations that Trump campaign aides colluded with Russian interests against Clinton.
He is now being held in solitary confinement pending his trial in Virginia on multiple bank-fraud charges, all of which involve activities that predate Manafort’s tenure with Trump and are not related to Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Special counsel Robert Mueller focused on Manafort early in his probe, with his team’s eventually requesting an indictment against him. But critics see the investigation as improperly extending beyond its purpose to pressure people into cooperating by uncovering dirt on them.
DiGenova warns that the decision to hold Manafort in solitary confinement is a misuse of the legal system to intimidate witnesses and potential witnesses.
“This is an in terrorem use of the judicial and investigative process to force people to do things,” diGenova said. “I cannot believe that [there has] not been a whimper from anyone in the civil liberties community about the way that Manafort is being treated. This will be a black mark on the Department of Justice and the people who work for it forever.”
DiGenova said holding Manafort in solitary confinement makes it difficult for his lawyers to prepare for the case, which involves foreign bank accounts, reams of paperwork, multiple people worldwide, and countless other details that could be difficult to prepare for properly in such a circumstance.
“You cannot do it when you have a complex case, because when you have a place like this that involves tens of thousands of documents, hundreds of witnesses and overseas bank accounts, etc.,” diGenova said, “you have to be able to sit down with your client, go over documents, get estimations. This takes weeks, perhaps months, of preparation.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to lead the Russia investigation last year after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from everything related to the allegations.
The FBI also has faced questions over how it handled an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official diplomatic business. Several congressional committees have demanded hundreds of thousands of documents related to the investigation.