Ex-US attorney: Jury asking about reasonable doubt is ‘glimmer of hope’ for Manafort
Former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey said that a question posed by the jury in Paul Manafort’s criminal trial about the definition of “reasonable doubt” offers a “glimmer of hope” for the former Trump campaign chairman.
Coffey told told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on “Rising” that Manafort is facing an uphill battle in his trial on bank and tax fraud charges over the vast number of documents presented against him by federal prosecutors.
“But his team has to have a little bit of glimmer of hope just from the question that jurors want to know more about reasonable doubt,” Coffey said.
“Because there are certainly cases where that can be the final thing that at least gives them a few hold-out jurors,” he continued, “because a hung jury here would be a big victory for the defense.”
A hung jury, or a jury that is so gridlocked that it cannot reach a verdict, would mark the end of the case for now; federal prosecutors could decide whether to retry Manafort.
The jury in Manafort’s trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va., ended its first day of deliberations on Thursday by asking the judge in the case to redefine “reasonable doubt,” along with three other questions.
Manafort’s team celebrated the question at the time, saying that it “indicates someone has doubts.”
The jury signaled in a note on Friday afternoon that they would not reach a verdict in the case before the weekend, requesting to end deliberations at 5 p.m. so a juror could attend an event.
If the jury does not reach a verdict by Friday evening, they will resume their work on Monday — making it the third day of deliberations in the case, which is the first trial test for special counsel Robert Mueller and his team.
The question of whether Michael Cohen, the former fixer and personal attorney for President Donald Trump, would flip on his former boss has been the subject of intense speculation in the media and in the halls of power since the FBI raided his offices and residences in April.
Three months later it’s still an unresolved question.
In his first in-depth interview since those federal raids, Cohen offered some of the most intriguing clues thus far.
“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Saturday. “I put family and country first.”
For a man who has made no secret over the past decade of his resolute allegiance to Trump – Cohen once said he would “take a bullet” for him – it was a notably blunt break from the president, legal experts told ABC News.
“It’s a barely coded message that he is ready to cooperate,” said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami. “When people that are targets of investigations are talking about doing what’s best for their family, it’s inevitably a code for cooperating and getting the best deal they can from prosecutors.”
Cohen has recently retained a new attorney, Guy Petrillo, a highly-regarded former prosecutor who once led the criminal division of the same U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan that is conducting the criminal investigation of Cohen. Some say this move signals that Cohen could be leaning in the direction of seeking a deal.
Once Petrillo officially assumes his role as lead counsel, Cohen intends to exit a joint-defense agreement he shared with the president and others potentially implicated in federal probes, sources familiar with the case told ABC News.
“Being part of a joint defense agreement generally means your cooperation is with fellow targets and you’re sharing confidential information,” Coffey said. “Exiting a joint defense agreement generally means you are leaving them behind and your cooperation is now focused on the United States government. The message to the president is: ‘I’m not taking any more bullets.’”
In the interview this weekend, Cohen told Stephanopoulos that he would rely on Petrillo’s legal advice to help him decide how to proceed in his dealings with the government. Prosecutors in New York are investigating Cohen for potential violations of campaign finance and banking laws. Cohen has not been charged with any crime.
“[Cohen] is going to want to know what charges could be brought against him before he and his new counsel decide when and what to ‘proffer’ to prosecutors,” said Stephen Saltzburg, a George Washington University professor of law and a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. “It becomes a kind of back and forth from there.”
If and when Cohen decides to talk about a possible deal, legal experts think he may have to sit tight for a while since prosecutors in New York may view such an entreaty as premature.
“Defendants often say that the hardest part of going through a prosecution is waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Detroit and now a law professor at the University of Michigan.
Cohen told Stephanopoulos on Saturday that the waiting has been “difficult, upsetting and unpleasant.”
But because of the complexity of the federal investigations, a resolution could still be months away.
Since the search warrants were executed in April, lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization have been engaged in a laborious process of reviewing more than 4 million items seized in the raids. Under a court supervised plan, the attorneys are reviewing the fruits of the searches for items that are potentially covered by attorney-client privilege.
During that review, the government has had to wait to conduct its own examination of the haul. Only in the last few weeks has the court started to turn over material to prosecutors. On Monday, another 1.3 million items were released to the government.
“Prosecutors will want to wait to talk to Cohen until after they have reviewed the documents so that they can verify the truth of Cohen’s statements and confront him with facts that he might not volunteer,” McQuade said. “Until then, Cohen has to wait.”
America’s immigration system has never been a kind place for children. I will never forget the entirely unnecessary trauma inflicted upon Elian Gonzalez in a paramilitary raid launched in 2000 upon a defenseless home. But at least Elian was soon reunited with his father. Recent days have seen a dark chapter for thousands of innocents in confinement still stranded far from their parents in the latest wave of federal indifference.
These separations represent a policy that is likely more thoughtless than intentionally heartless. Dramatically compounding the harm of separating children from their parents, though, immigration services failed to provide an adequate tracking system for several thousand separated children. Better accountability is given by dry cleaners who give tickets for a customer’s shirt.
Insensitivity to children predates the current headlines. The Clinton administration battled successfully to establish that “the best interests of the child” is a principle for divorces and not immigration. Federal courts have long been extremely reluctant to intervene in immigration matters,. But the current policy seems so harsh that strong unconstitutional challenges could be advanced. In 1982, the Supreme Court found that undocumented immigrant children cannot be excluded from public education because “directing the onus of a parent’s misconduct against his children does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice” and “condemnation on the head of an infant is illogical and unjust.” This wisdom was sadly ignored by the officials who created the recent family separation policy.
While it appears that the policy of separation is being revisited, the treatment of immigrant children has a long and troubled history. The most recent events are not a mere episode but the latest chapter in a troubling legacy. A broad re-examination of that history with a resolve to treat innocent children with care, concern and dignity is urgently required.
A longtime business associate of President Trump’s former personal attorney has agreed to cooperate with the government as part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors in New York, a source familiar with the agreement told ABC News.
Evgeny Friedman, 46, a Russian immigrant known as the “Taxi King,” was chief executive of Taxiclub Management Inc. which managed a fleet of more than 800 cabs, including some controlled by Cohen and his wife. He was accused of failing to pay the state $5 million in surcharges on taxi rides and pleaded guilty in Albany County to a single count of tax fraud.
Legal experts agree that the terms of the deal appear to be very favorable for Friedman, suggesting that he agreed to provide something of significant value to prosecutors.
Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said the terms of the deal appear to signify a substantial level of cooperation.
“A no jail time deal like this strongly suggests a level of cooperation significant enough to incriminate other significant subjects,” he said. “And those who are prosecuted under New York State law, cannot be saved by a Presidential pardon.”
In general , when the FBI gets a credible lead about potential criminal activity, it can be appropriate to use a confidential informant to follow up on that lead. The FBI has certainly used confidential informants with respect to public officials and, in the campaign context, to target potentially illegal fundraising.
The critical unknown, though, is whether the informant sought to gain trust , expand contacts and effectively move inside the campaign for broader informational purposes. Imbedding an informant in a political campaign would obviously be troubling. In determining this issue, it would be important to assess whether attempts were made by the informant to establish communication with others in the campaign beyond initial leads.Substantial added concerns arise from the fact that this was a Presidential campaign in which the outcome could change the FBI’s own top leadership.
For these reasons, it is appropriate for Congressional authorities- with appropriate confidentiality safeguards- to drill down on the role of the informant to verify whether it was simply following up on credible leads or an infiltration.
James Comey’s emails certainly provide an unflattering portrayal of President Trump. But they present some interesting items concerning Comey himself.
In an ultimate irony, he states in the emails “I don’t leak.” And yet that statement is contained in one of the emails that Comey – through a friend – leaked to the press. This does not add to his credibility. And his public excuse for the leak – he lacked faith in the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, will not score points with DOJ or anywhere else.
Comey says he doesn’t do “sneaky things” – he is documenting every conversation with the President – in case he might need it in the future, all without informing the President.
He repeatedly praises Andy McCabe who was later fired in part for contradicting Comey about the subject of McCabe’s leaks.
Also intriguing are the references to “Confidential” and “Secret” on some memos. These were apparently declassified at some point but when?
For the Trump legal team, these emails provide a detailed road map of Comey’s statements that will help them prepare the President for his seemingly inevitable interview with Mueller’s team.