Manafort Asks Judge to Throw Out Criminal Charges

(CN) – Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Wednesday night asked a federal judge to throw out five criminal charges against him.

In a flurry of court filings, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing argues that the charges stray far afield of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign.

While Downing acknowledges Mueller has been given the “power to investigate a specifically identified matter and anything that arises in the course of the investigation,” he says that broad mandate clearly violates Justice Department regulations, effectively giving the special prosecutor a blank check to do as he pleases.

“The regulations do not allow for such an expansive appointment,” Downing says.

Manafort previously filed a lawsuit arguing that Mueller’s actions have extended beyond the mandate of his investigation and prosecutorial authority.

“The original and superseding indictments do not focus in the slightest on alleged coordination between the Russian government [and the Trump campaign,] or even Mr. Manafort’s brief involvement in the campaign,” the court filings say.

Downing continues: “They focus instead on Mr. Manafort’s consulting work in Ukraine, which ended in 2014, years before the Trump campaign even launched; on bank accounts and tax filings from 2006 to 2014, which have no connection to the Russian government and again predate the Trump campaign by years; and on Mr. Manafort’s personal expenditures from 2006 to 2014 which likewise have no connection to the Russian government and predate the Trump campaign and Manafort’s brief involvement in by years.”

Further, Downing claims the charges against his client cover alleged acts which “politically accountable prosecutors already knew and had decided not to prosecute years ago.”

That “old news,” he contends, could not have arisen from Mueller’s investigation and the multiple indictments filed against him, including those filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The indictments, he claims, have amounted to a “game of criminal-procedure whack-a-mole against a special counsel whose massive resources he cannot possibly hope to match.”

In a second filing Wednesday, Manafort also moved to dismiss count two of the indictment which takes aim at his alleged conspiracy to launder money received while offering political consulting services in Ukraine.

This particular charge, Downing argues, should be removed since his activities spanned a full decade before President Donald Trump formed his 2016 campaign.

“It contains no allegations of coordination between individuals associated with President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, the very reason for the Office of Special Counsel’s existence,” the 15-page motion states.

The government’s contention that the former Trump campaign chair’s failure to register as a foreign agent in 2016 and 2017 are also “misleading,” he argues, because they “somehow transform otherwise legitimate consulting income earned from 2006 to 2014 into tainted funds.”

According to the motion, those financial transactions don’t prove a failure to file as a foreign agent. Indeed, he argues, the transactions ending in 2014 don’t connect to false statements special counsel alleges he made.

Along with this motion, he also seeks a dismissal of the forfeiture allegation. That allegation is based upon the money laundering conspiracy charges but since no other offenses alleged in the indictment provide a basis for the forfeiture of property, the court must strike it, he argues.

“The court should order any restraint of property based upon the forfeiture allegation be rescinded and the property released,” the motion states.

In a third and final motion filed Wednesday, Manafort also seeks dismissal of two “multiplicitous counts,” found in a superseding indictment filed last month.

Particularly, Manafort seeks dismissal of count four: making a false statement on his FARA form.

Specifically, false statements included in the count Manafort wishes to dismiss include those he made allegedly denying his consulting company, DMI, reached out to the Party of Regions and Opposition Bloc to hold meetings or conduct “outreach” within the U.S.; statements about an agreement to provide services to the Centre and a statement where Manafort said DMI did not provide the Centre with a list of potential U.S. based consultants.

Manafort also seeks to dismiss count five of the indictment, which, if left on would amount to double jeopardy since it is nearly identical to count four.

“Multiplicity presents not only the risk that a defendant may receive multiple punishments for one offense, but also the risk that the jury will view the defendant as having committed several crimes instead of just one,” the motion states.

The fifth count charges Manafort with knowingly causing “another to falsify, conceal and cover-up a scheme and device to a material fact; to make a materially false, fictitious, fraudulent statement and representation; and to make and use a false writing and document knowing the same to contain a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement.”

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