Mueller Seeks More Time to Respond to Manafort Gambit

WASHINGTON (CN) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday asked a federal judge for more time to respond to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s requests to toss a handful of the criminal charges brought against him.

In four-page motion filed in the D.C. District Court, Mueller asks the court to give him until April 2 to address Manafort’s effort to have him dismissed as special counsel.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing contends Mueller’s powers are too broad and that he has been given a “blank check” to investigate “ a specifically identified matter and anything that arises in the course of the investigation.”

This, he contends, violates Justice Department regulations.

Mueller also requested Judge Amy Berman Jackson grant counsel until April 4 to respond to the one-time Trump campaign chairman’s motion to dismiss false statement charges.

On Mar. 15, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing argued two counts against his client alleging false statements on a FARA form were akin to double jeopardy since they were nearly identical.

Specifically, the counts Manafort wished to dismiss include those he allegedly made 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. and his statements about an agreement to provide consulting services to the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine where Manafort claimed DMI never provided the Centre with a list of potential U.S. based consultants.

The extension request filed by Mueller on Wednesday involves Manafort’s motion to dismiss count two of his indictment: money laundering conspiracy.

“[Manafort’s] third motion argues that [the count] charging money laundering conspiracy, fails to charge an offense and, accordingly, it must be dismissed and an associated forfeiture allegation stricken,” the filing states.

Special Counsel has requested until April 9 to address the last request with a complete briefing to be held no later than April 11.

“The requested extension would not prejudice Manafort or cause any delay in the already scheduled proceedings. If the Court grants this motion, Manafort would still have ample time to file his reply briefs seven days after receiving the government’s responses,” Mueller writes. “The hearing could therefore proceed on April 19 as scheduled or, alternatively, be adjourned to a later date at the Court’s discretion.”

IN the Eastern District of Virginia, another venue where Manafort faces charges including conspiracy, bank and tax fraud, attorney Thomas Zehnle filed an appearance of counsel Wednesday night.

Based in Washington D.C., Zehnle has more than 25 years experience trying tax, white collar and civil litigation. He’s previously served as a federal prosecutor and as chief of a Department of Justice criminal enforcement division which supervised tax and financial fraud prosecution.

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