WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trumpâ€™s former campaign chairman was reprimanded by a federal judge Wednesday for speaking publicly in violation of her gag order in his criminal case.
The rebuke of Paul Manafort, a New Britain native, came as he pleaded innocent to the latest charges brought by special counsel Robert Muellerâ€™s Russia investigators.
Manafort appeared at the federal courthouse to enter a formal plea to a second indictment accusing him of acting as an unregistered foreign agent and directing an international money-laundering conspiracy stemming from his political work in Ukraine.
It was his first court appearance since his co-defendant and longtime business associate, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Manafort had previously pleaded not guilty in the case, but the latest indictment, which mirrored the charges filed against him last October, required him to formally enter a second plea. Manafort also faces charges in Virginia accusing him of tax evasion and bank fraud.
During the hearing, Judge Amy Berman Jackson set a Sept. 17 trial date for Manafort and reprimanded him for making a public statement last week about Gatesâ€™ plea. She said his statement violated a gag order she put in place early in the case.
â€śI can certainly understand the impulse to not let that go by without asserting your innocence,â€ť Jackson told Manafort, referring to Gatesâ€™ plea and â€śhundredsâ€ť of news articles about it. But it canâ€™t happen again, she said, or she could hold him in contempt.
Manafortâ€™s lawyer, Kevin Downing, told the judge his client would appreciate more guidance from the judge on what he can and canâ€™t say publicly. Downing also said he plans to file a motion challenging her order.
Manafortâ€™s statement last week took aim at the prosecution, saying Gatesâ€™ plea didnâ€™t change his commitment to defend himself against â€śthe untrue piled-up charges contained in the indictments against me.â€ť
Manafort also said he had hoped and â€śexpectedâ€ť Gates would have had â€śthe strength to continue the battle to prove out innocence.â€ť
â€śFor reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise,â€ť Manafort said.
Manafort is due back in court later this week, this time in Virginia, where he faces a separate indictment involving bank fraud and tax charges.
The allegations stem from much of the same conduct outlined in the Washington case, and prosecutors attempted to have all the charges brought in the pending case there. But Manafort objected, resulting in his facing two indictments in two different places at the same time.
On Wednesday, Jackson said the situation could lead to a lot of duplication for both sides.
Prosecutor Greg Andres acknowledged the overlap in the two indictments but said any request to combine the case would be Manafortâ€™s to make.