Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has asked the judge who will preside over the fraud trial of Paul Manafort to grant immunity to five witnesses who may be called to testify against Trump's former campaign manager, the guy with the sketchy ties to Moscow.
Mueller didn’t identify the witnesses, who haven’t been charged. The five would invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination and remain silent unless Judge T.S. Ellis III grants them immunity, prosecutors said Tuesday in a court filing in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Their names will be made public only if they are called to testify, according to the filing.
“Disclosing the motions would reveal those individuals’ involvement in the investigation and the trial, thereby creating the risk of undue harassment,” prosecutors wrote. “Such concern potentially would be heightened by the additional revelation that they have invoked their privilege against self-incrimination.”
Prosecutors asked Ellis to seal five separate motions about the potential witnesses and unseal any of them if they are called to testify.Immunity can be both carrot and stick. It can encourage cooperative witnesses to testify without fear of incriminating themselves. It can also be a way to coerce uncooperative witnesses to testify by exposing them to convictions for contempt or worse if they refuse to answer the prosecutor's questions.
Manafort, 69, is accused of bank fraud and tax crimes in the Alexandria case. He would be the first of 32 people charged by Mueller to go to trial. He faces a Sept. 17 trial in Washington on charges of money laundering, obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine.