A federal judge on Friday ordered former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to jail to await separate trials on money laundering and fraud charges following allegations that he sought to obstruct the Russia inquiry while he was on house arrest.
U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson revoked Manafort's bail. Clearly agitated by Manafort’s conduct, she said there appeared to be no terms of release that she was confident that Manafort would follow.
“This is not middle school,” Jackson said at one point. “I can’t take his cell phone."
She continued: "I have thought long and hard about this. I don’t think I can draft a clear enough order” setting out conditions of Manafort’s continuing release.
Manafort, meanwhile, showed no emotion as the judge delivered the ruling.
If convicted at trial, Manafort faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in custody.
Manafort, who just two summers ago was celebrating Donald Trump's nomination at the Republican National Convention, was charged last week along with Russian business associate Konstantin Kilimnik as part of an alleged scheme to tamper with two witnesses in the existing cases against Manafort.
Manafort’s wife left the courthouse, forced to walk a gauntlet of photographers to the door of a black SUV.
The family made no comment.
Earlier Friday, federal prosecutors representing Russia special counsel Robert Mueller and Manafort’s attorneys clashed in court, with prosecutors arguing that the former Trump aide deserves to be jailed for “committing a crime while on bail.”
“The danger is that Mr. Manafort will continue to commit crimes,” prosecutor Greg Andres told the judge.
Before the announcement, President Trump continued to distance himself from Manafort.
“Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign,” Trump told reporters gathered at the White House on Friday. “I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?”
“I don’t think it’s right,” Trump said of investigators reaching back more than a decade.
But the president also declined to say directly whether he believes Manafort or others who are part of Mueller’s probe should be pardoned.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” the president said. “I do want to see people treated fairly.”
Prosecutors asserted that that the alleged obstruction effort, in which Manafort and Kilimnik sought to coach the testimony of the two un-identified witnesses, should trigger the revocation of Manafort's bail, sending him to jail to await a July trial in Alexandria, Va., on bank fraud charges and a separate September trial in Washington, D.C., where he faces a vast money laundering and fraud conspiracy.
Investigators have claimed that the "repeated" contacts occurred while Manafort was under house arrest in Virginia, as a condition of his release.
Last week's indictment asserted that Manafort and Kilimnik engaged in the obstruction scheme from Feb. 23 through April.
"The defendants...knowingly and intentionally conspired to corruptly persuade (the witnesses identified as D1 and D2) with intent to influence, delay and prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding," prosecutors alleged.
The witnesses worked with Manafort in organizing a group of former European officials who lobbied within the U.S. without registering as required by law.
"Manafort and Kilimnik repeatedly contacted Persons D1 and D2 in an effort to secure materially false testimony," prosecutors alleged in court papers.
At one point, even as Manafort was on notice that investigators had been monitoring his communications, the former campaign chairman sent an encrypted text message to one of the witnesses, saying: "This is Paul...We should talk," court papers stated.
The witnesses told investigators that they "understood" that Manafort was reaching out to influence the testimony, according to court papers.