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Mueller wants to give immunity to five Manafort witnesses

The special counsel wants to keep the names secret so the witnesses are not harassed.

Special counsel Robert Mueller wants to give a form of immunity to five potential witnesses against former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, according to court papers filed Tuesday.

Mueller did not name the witnesses but said they have not been identified publicly in connection with the case. He requested that his immunity motions be sealed and remain that way unless they testify, citing the risk of "undue harassment" or "reputational harm" if their identities are disclosed.

The motions he filed seek "use immunity" for the witnesses, which means prosecutors would not be able to employ their testimony against them.

The witnesses are on tap for the first of Manafort's two impending trials — this one in the Eastern District of Virginia on tax evasion and bank fraud charges stemming from his business dealings and lobbying work for Ukrainians.

The alleged crimes were uncovered during Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He was indicted with his former business partner, Rick Gates, who subsequently cut a plea deal with prosecutors and agreed to cooperate.

On Monday, Judge T.S. Ellis III denied Manafort's bid to move his trial to the Western District of Virginia, saying there was "no reason to believe that fair and impartial jurors cannot be found in the Eastern District."

Manafort is also awaiting a second trial in federal court in Washington on charges of conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, being an unregistered foreign agent and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

He's being held at the Alexandria, Virginia, detention center after the judge in the Washington case revoked his bail amid claims of witness-tampering.

Manafort petitioned to move his trial out of Alexandria to a more remote area of Virginia, citing publicity about the case in the Washington area, but a judge shot down the request, finding that coverage was nationwide and the population is large enough to supply an impartial jury.