Busy Day for Defense Lawyers in Mueller Probe Indictments

Some of the defense attorneys working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe are facing new challenges following Monday indictments against President Trump’s former campaign head Paul Manafort and his longtime associate Rick Gates.

Manafort and Gates were both indicted on twelve counts, including money laundering and making false statements. They appeared in federal district court Monday afternoon in Washington, and, via their lawyers, pled not guilty to all charges against them.

Manafort has retained the services of attorney Kevin Downing, whom he hired in August after dropping his previous counsel, WilmerHale’s Reginald Brown. Downing was formerly a partner at Miller & Chevalier but left the firm in order to be hired by Manafort, citing conflicts. His bio page has been removed from the firm’s website, but a profile on attorney ranking site Chambers & Partners, submitted by Downing, notes that his practice focuses on “high-stakes matters in areas of civil and criminal tax enforcement.”

Before joining Miller & Chevalier in 2013, Downing worked for 15 years in the Department of Justice’s tax division, during which time he was involved with the prosecution of the KPMG tax shelter fraud exposed in 2003 and the 2008 UBS tax evasion scandal.

Gates appeared in court on Monday with a public defender.

“He is not going to comment further until he has had a chance to review the lengthy indictment with his legal team,” Gates’ spokesman Glenn Selig said in a press statement. “In the meanwhile, he would appreciate you respecting his and his family’s privacy as they weather this unexpected and hasty proceeding designed to accommodate perhaps political and press considerations rather than his right to have counsel of his choice by his side during this most troubling and challenging day for him and his loved ones.”

The public defender said Gates will attempt to hire a lawyer before his next court appearance on Thursday, CNN reported. A member of Selig’s public relations firm told Big Law Business that Gates “may be working” with other lawyers “shortly.”

Also on Monday, it was revealed that former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos has been cooperating with the Special Counsel’s probe, although it remains unclear what exactly that has entailed. According to an unsealed plea agreement, Papadopulous lied to the FBI in January about his interactions with foreign nationals closely connected to the Russian government. He was arrested in July and pled guilty to the charge on October 5.

Papadopoulos has retained the counsel of Thomas M. Breen and Robert W. Stanley of Chicago-based boutique criminal defense firm Breen Pugh Law.

Breen, a former prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, received national attention in the 1990s after he successfully defended a young gang member by the name of Rolando Cruz in his third trial over the 1983 abduction and murder of a young girl in Illinois. Cruz was twice wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, but was later acquitted and pardoned.

 

Contact the reporter responsible for this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft at srussellkraft@gmail.com.

Contact the editors responsible for this story: Casey Sullivan at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com and Tom Taylor at ttaylor@bna.com.