Manafort Asks Judge To Dismiss Mueller’s Indictment Against Him In DC

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort leaves the United States Court House after his indicement hearing in Washington, DC on October 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Keith Lane/Getty Images)
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Paul Manafort on Wednesday night asked the judge overseeing his case in Washington, D.C., to dismiss special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment against him, arguing that Mueller did not have the authority to bring charges.

This is Manafort’s second attempt to throw out Mueller’s indictment in Washington, D.C. — Manafort’s lawyers filed a civil lawsuit in January against Mueller, the Justice Department and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, claiming that Mueller overstepped his authority by indicting Manafort.

Manafort’s lawyers filed two additional motions to dismiss on Wednesday night, one calling for the judge to dismiss the money laundering count and another calling for the judge to dismiss one of two counts that accuses Manafort of making false statements.

In the complaint filed Wednesday night, Manafort’s lawyers note that when Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel, he gave Mueller the authority to “investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Manafort’s lawyer’s argue that Rosenstein did not have the authority to grant Mueller the broad authority to investigate any matter that arises from the probe.

“The Superseding Indictment’s allegations have nothing to do with alleged coordination between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government. They instead concern alleged conduct that long pre-dates the Trump campaign—and which prosecutors knew about but declined to pursue long ago,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote, arguing that the indictment against Manafort should not fall within Mueller’s purview.

Manafort’s lawyers further argued that even if Rosenstein had the authority to grant Mueller the ability to investigate any matters that arise from the Russia probe, the indictment against Manafort still does not fall within the special counsel’s investigative authority. They argue that Mueller’s authority to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” should only include matters Mueller learns “because of” the original Russia investigation.

“None of the charges before this Court were discovered because of the Special Counsel’s investigation into alleged coordination; nor are any of them ‘demonstrably related to’ that investigation,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote.

Manafort’s attorneys noted that the tax and financial crimes alleged in the indictment took place before the Trump campaign began and that the Justice Department was aware of certain activities before Mueller was appointed.

“Given that the DOJ was aware of Mr. Manafort’s activities years before the Special Counsel was appointed, the Special Counsel cannot credibly claim that he discovered the alleged conduct because of his investigation into unrelated claims about Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign,” they wrote.

In a separate motion to dismiss, Manafort’s lawyers asked the judge to throw out the money laundering charge. The money laundering count alleges that Manafort made financial transactions through foreign bank accounts using proceeds from unlawful activity and to “promote” illegal activity, which Mueller’s team identified as Manafort’s failure to register as a foreign lobbyist. Manafort’s attorneys argued that Manafort’s work as a foreign lobbyist was not in itself illegal, and that his alleged failure to register and false statements were not related to the financial transactions. In the filing, Manafort’s lawyers also asked the judge to dismiss the indictment’s forfeiture allegation, which would require Manafort to forfeit property involved in the alleged money laundering scheme if convicted. A new attorney on Manafort’s legal team, Richard Westling, signed onto this motion.

In yet another motion to dismiss, Manafort’s lawyers argued that two counts alleging that Mueller lied to investigators were duplicative and asked the judge to dismiss one of the counts.

Manafort faces charges of money laundering, tax evasion, and failure to disclose foreign lobbying in the indictment brought in Washington, D.C. A separate indictment in Virginia includes charges of making false statements on tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud. He has pleaded not guilty to both indictments.

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