A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, has granted a request put forth by special counsel Robert Mueller for five witnesses to receive immunity. The witnesses are to testify in the criminal trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
The judge, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, also delayed the start of the trial to July 31. It had originally been scheduled to start Wednesday. Jury selection will begin this week, as planned.
The jury will consist of sixteen people, including four alternates. The five witnesses were revealed as: James Brennan, Donna Duggan, Conor O’Brien, Cindy Laporta and Dennis Raico. It was not immediately clear what they would be testifying about.
Manafort, along with a longtime associate and fellow Trump campaign official Rick Gates, were indicted last October on charges of fraud and money laundering. Since then, there have been two superseding indictments handed down him including one last month that included new obstruction of justice charges.
Those charges allege attempts by Manafort to tamper with potential witnesses in his case via messages sent through encrypted messaging apps as well as phone calls.
The messages, several of which the witnesses provided themselves, purportedly show Manafort trying to get two witnesses in particular to corroborate his defense against the charges.
Specifically, the messages show Manafort trying to get former associates to back up his assertion that third-party lobbyists he contracted with worked only in Europe on his behalf and not in the U.S.
“We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe,” Manafort wrote to one former associate.
The associate told investigators he believed Manafort’s statements were an effort to “suborn perjury,” because the person knew the individuals Manafort was speaking of also worked in the U.S., not just Europe.
Among the charges against Manafort are charges that he failed to properly declare his foreign lobbying work and work as a foreign agent.
As a result of those charges a U.S. federal judge ordered Manafort to jail while awaiting his trial scheduled to begin in September. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson revoked Manafort’s bail which had allowed him to live under house arrest in lieu of serving time in jail.
Manafort is set to stand trial in both Virginia and Washington, D.C. in relation to the charges against him.
President Trump tweeted about Manafort’s being sent to jail last month. In his tweet, he put distance between himself and his onetime campaign chairman and also asked for further investigation of some of his political opponents.
“Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob. What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair!” he wrote at the time.
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