A judge in the United States has revoked the house arrest of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, ordering that he be held in jail while awaiting trial.
Paul Manafort was ordered into custody on Friday following new obstruction of justice charges filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last week.
Manafort is facing multiple charges of money laundering, bank fraud and illegal lobbying. He was among the first to be indicted by Mueller, who is heading up the main investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.
After turning himself in to the FBI in October, Manafort was placed under house arrest on a $10m bond.
Last week, Mueller issued a motion saying that Manafort had contacted witnesses by phone and encrypted text messaging for the purpose of securing “materially false testimony”.
It added that such activities amounted to a violation of his bail terms.
“I cannot turn a blind eye,” US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said on Friday. “You’ve abused the trust placed in you.”
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, described the news as a “a very big deal”, adding that it “is going to put incredible pressure on Manafort to try and come to some sort of arrangement with the special counsel”.
Culhane noted, however, despite the fact that 22 people have so far been charged in Mueller’s investigation, with five pleading guilty and his former campaign manager now going behind bars, support among Trump’s base has not moved.
“They say they are losing confidence in the special counsel,” Culhane said.
For his part, Trump took to Twitter to criticise the judge’s decision as “very unfair”.
Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob. What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2018
Manafort was accused of witnesses tampering along with longtime associate Konstantin Kilimnik.
Prosecutors said they tried to convince two witnesses to say they had not lobbied in the US for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
Manafort’s lawyers said the charges were based on the “thinnest of evidence”.
“Mr Manafort asked no one to provide a false affidavit or false testimony at trial, or perjure themselves, and he has not given – nor offered to give – any potential witness anything in exchange for false testimony,” a court filing issued last Friday said.
Manafort is facing trials in Virginia and Washington, DC, with the former scheduled to start in July.
In February, he pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, illegal lobbying and lying, setting up the first trial to result from Mueller’s investigation, due to begin on September 17.
In March, he also pleaded not guilty to charges of bank and tax fraud, setting up the July trial.