The midterm elections this year might be haunted by allegations of Russian meddling in Donald Trump's presidential campaign, after a federal judge said Tuesday that Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates may face their criminal trial just before November.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson suggested at a hearing Tuesday morning that the trial could start in September or October, meaning it could potentially end weeks or days before the midterm election.
Prosecutors from Robert Mueller's special counsel office asked for three weeks to present their side of the case at the trial.
The judge refrained from setting a firm date. Previously, Berman Jackson and the prosecution had sought a May start for the trial. That date was too soon, she said, because Mueller's office was still turning over evidence to the defense team -- some 640,000 documents and other items as of this week, prosecutors said.
Statements from the defense teams addressing their indictments will be due by the end of February, and both sides will argue about them through March, the judge said.
The men face a total of 12 charges related to money laundering and falsifying records. Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty.
Gates released from house arrest
Berman Jackson also said in court that Gates could be released from house arrest Tuesday, a change in his bail that he'd sought for months. Bates will live in Richmond, Virginia, under a nightly curfew, will wear a GPS monitor and won't be allowed near airports, train stations and bus stations. He will post more than $5 million as collateral for his bail.
Manafort is still not out from house arrest. "The keys to his release lay with him," Berman Jackson said, while noting she still awaited paperwork from Manafort to secure his $10 million bail.
She noted that his doctor had sent her a note related to his house arrest. "While he is subject to home confinement, he's not confined to his couch. I believe he has the opportunity to exercise," Berman Jackson said.
Repeating gag order
Berman Jackson also warned Gates about making public statements, especially to journalists and through spokespeople, after he filmed a video that thanked potential legal defense fund donors at a gathering in late December.
This was the second time Berman Jackson warned one of the defendants about violating the court's gag order on the case, which is meant to prevent both sides from influencing public opinion. She previously warned Manafort after he worked on an op-ed that defended his political consulting work in Ukraine and was submitted to a Ukrainian newspaper.
The judge set two upcoming hearings for Manafort and Gates: on February 14 and on April 17.
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