Manafort Attorney in Court to Argue for Charge Dismissal

WASHINGTON (CN) – An attorney for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort did not appear to make much headway Thursday as he tried for a second time this week to see all charges against his client dismissed.

Attorney Kevin Downing appeared in the federal court Washington, D.C. Thursday morning to try to convince U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Justice Department regulations pertaining to special counsel investigations were overly broad.

Downing espoused the same position in a filing in the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia on Monday. Manafort faces trials in both venues.

But Judge Jackson appeared unmoved as Downing tried to make his argument.

“But the regulations you have cited grant [Mueller] broad authority,” she said, cutting the attorney off in mid-sentence.

In recent weeks, Downing has repeatedly objected to the breadth of investigative authority granted Mueller by acting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The attorney claims the special counsel was effectively given a “blank check” to investigate anything he wants, whether it is related to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election or not.

Downing on Thursday focused at length on the FBI’s July 26, 2017, raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia home.

In an August 2017 memo, Rosenstein specifically authorized special counsel to search for evidence that might show collusion between the campaign chair and the Kremlin.

But Downing noted that memo was issued after the July raid occurred. In his view, that means the raid, at the time it occurred, was beyond Mueller’s mandate.

As a result, he said, charges stemming from his clients lobbying efforts in Ukraine on behalf of the Ukraine should be dropped.

Judge Jackson appeared unmoved.

She said Mueller had “broad authority” to investigate Manafort as an “option” granted under federal special counsel regulations.

Richard Westling, another of Manafort’s attorney’s told the judge his client’s efforts to get the charges dismissed was being hampered by the fact that substantial amount of his assets are tied up while the case is pending.

Manafort’s indictment in Washington includes a forfeiture claim against four properties, a life insurance policy, and accounts with two financial institutions — assets the government would seize if Manfort is convicted.

Westling told Jackson that “millions of dollars” weren’t available to Manafort to use to mount his defense.

Judge Jackson did not indicate when she will rule on Downing’s request.

In a related development, the Justice Department is expected on Thursday to send Congress copies of former FBI Director James Comey’s memos documenting his interactions with President Donald Trump.

Comey told lawmakers last year that he drafted seven memos detailing his encounters with the president in person and on the phone.

He  also claimed at the time that he felt pressured by Trump to back off the FBI’s pursuit of an investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia as well as into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

According to Politico, the memos are believed to be central to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump or his allies attempted to obstruct the Russia probe.

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