- Mueller’s authority questioned anew in criminal court filing
- Indictment is ‘unmoored’ from grant of authority, lawyers say
Former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort urged a federal judge in Virginia to dismiss tax and bank fraud charges against him, renewing arguments that Special Counsel Robert Mueller went too far by investigating crimes beyond Russian meddling in the election.
Manafort argued Tuesday that Mueller exceeded his May 2017 appointment order to investigate coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly” from his probe. The charges don’t arise directly from Mueller’s inquiry because they involve Manafort’s political-consulting work in Ukraine, which preceded his time on the Trump campaign, according to the filing.
The indictment “must be dismissed because it is totally unmoored from the appointment order’s grant of authority,” Manafort’s lawyers argued in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Manafort is scheduled for trial on July 10. He has advanced similar arguments in a civil lawsuit and a criminal case in Washington, where he’s accused there of conspiracy, money laundering and unregistered lobbying for Ukraine. Mueller and the Justice Department, which appointed him, have defended their authority.
By raising similar arguments about Mueller’s authority in two federal courts, Manafort’s lawyers may be banking on appealing rulings against him to separate higher courts that may view the issues differently. If that happens, the U.S. Supreme Court could elect to take up the question of Mueller’s authority.
In his filing, Manafort refers to Justice Department interest in his activities that preceded his work as campaign chairman. In July 2014, he met with U.S. prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to discuss his offshore consulting activities, the filing said.
“The DOJ had thus already investigated Mr. Manafort’s tax filings for the time period covered by the indictment” and chose not to charge him, according to the filing. “The Special Counsel was obviously the driving force behind the decision to charge Mr. Manafort.”
The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), and U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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