Mueller seeks immunity for 5 witnesses in Manafort case

Robert Mueller asks judge to give immunity to five witnesses

The special counsel in the Russian Federation investigation is seeking immunity for five potential witnesses in the upcoming trial of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Their names will only be made public if they are called to testify, he said.

He sought to have his trial moved south to Roanoke, saying keeping it in the D.C. -area would threaten his ability to get a fair trial.

In theory, the move to grant the witnesses immunity prevents them from invoking their Fifth Amendment rights and staying silent on certain questions when testifying against Manafort.

Mr Manafort's trial in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia is due to begin on July 25, where he faces charges of bank and tax fraud.

Judge T.S. Ellis decided against Manafort's request, writing, "the mere fact that a case has drawn substantial media attention does not, by itself, warrant a change in venue". Prosecutors asked for the court to compel the witnesses to testify.

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"Therefore, the proximity of defendant's pre-trial publicity to the start of his trial will be the same in Alexandria as it would be in Roanoke or Kansas City or Dallas".

Manafort is facing charges including conspiracy to commit money laundering, making false statements and working as an unregistered agent of the government of Ukraine.

"Disclosing the motions would reveal those individuals' involvement in the investigation and the trial, thereby creating the risk of undue harassment", prosecutors wrote.

He faces a September 17 trial in Washington on charges of money laundering, obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine. The judge also said that "jurors' political leanings are not, by themselves, evidence that those jurors can not fairly and impartially consider the evidence presented and apply the law as instructed by the Court".

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