ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller asked a federal judge on Friday to place limits on how and in what context attorneys for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort can accuse the Justice Department of the “selective” or “vindictive” prosecution of their client.
In an 8-page motion filed in the federal court in Virginia, Mueller also asks U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to bar any evidence “suggesting any government investigation into Manafort that preceded special counsel’s appointment, ended with a decision not to prosecute him.”
The request Friday was accompanied by a 122-pages of jury instructions for the July trial in Virginia where Manafort faces multiple counts of bank and tax fraud as well as conspiracy and making a false statement to law enforcement.
“Although Manafort’s challenges to the authority of the Special Counsel’s Office are an appropriate subject for a pretrial motion before the court, the issue of the special counsel’s authority is not relevant to the questions to be resolved by the jury,” the filing states.
The same goes for the issue of the “government’s motives or investigative mandates” that are not pertinent to the jury’s concerns, prosecutors argue.
Manafort has made several attempts in the run up to both his trial in Virginia and in Washington, D.C. to dismiss the indictment or argue that Mueller’s May 2017 appointment was improper.
But those arguments have been made “incorrectly,” the special counsel wrote before providing multiple examples that have been tried before by Manafort.
Manafort’s defense attorneys have suggested to Judge Ellis that the Department of Justice already investigated “much of the conduct” giving rise to his current charges way back in 2014.
Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing previously contended that the Justice Department “simply chose not to pursue it” before.
The defense’s argument that Manafort’s charges “do not relate to the subject matter that the Special Counsel was appointed to investigate,” - namely Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election - should also be barred from debate once trial is underway, special counsel writes.
All of the Mueller’s requests fall in line with stipulations of the Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 403, the filing states.
“Manafort should also be precluded from arguing that he has been singled out for prosecution because of his position in the campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump, or otherwise asserting that he has been selectively prosecuted by the Special Counsel’s Office,” the special counsel argues. “Manafort elected not to make that claim in a pretrial motion.”
This is also standard procedure because “courts have consistently held that claims of selective or vindictive prosecution must be presented to the court before trial and cannot be argued to the jury,” he says.
By doing so, the motion says, Manafort’s defense team would not establish any facts relevant under criminal rules of procedure. It would merely serve to “make an emotional appeal to the jury.”
In addition to the requests filed Friday, the special counsel's office has also added another attorney to its roster: Scott Meisler, an appellate attorney with the Justice Department’s criminal division.
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