Manafort wants charges in Virginia dismissed, calls Mueller probe 'blank check'

Manafort is facing federal charges both in Virginia as well as in Washington.

March 27, 2018, 7:34 PM

Washington, D.C. -- Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is asking a federal judge to dismiss the most recent charges against him, arguing that special counsel Robert Mueller’s additional indictment in Virginia surpassed the scope of his mandate to investigate Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

The 18-count indictment Mueller filed in Virginia charges Manafort with money laundering and tax evasion, among other counts, and comes after Manafort was indicted on similar charges in Washington, D.C.

Manafort faces multiple felony counts handed up by grand juries in Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Va., where he lives.

One of Mueller’s prosecutors said during Manafort’s arraignment earlier this month that the defense had chosen to fight the additional charges in Virginia instead of having them be consolidated in the Washington court.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all counts in both Washington and Virginia. His longtime business partner and former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates pleaded guilty last month to reduced charges and is cooperating in the Mueller probe.

In Tuesday’s motion to dismiss, lawyers for Manafort claim that Mueller’s appointment as the special counsel and his broad mandate – to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from” his Russia investigation -- are “tantamount to a blank check.”

“The superseding indictment does not focus in the slightest on alleged coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,” lawyers for Manafort argue, adding that, “the charges in the superseding indictment go well beyond that scope, covering alleged acts that politically accountable prosecutors already knew about and had not prosecuted for years.”

Manafort argued a similar claim against Mueller in federal district court in Washington on March 14, seeking to dismiss charges there.

In the Washington case, Manafort is accused of hiding tens of millions of dollars in income from lobbying work for the former government of Ukraine and failing to pay taxes on it in the U.S.

Unless Judge T.S. Ellis grants his motion to dismiss, Manafort’s trial in Virginia is set to begin July 10.

Manafort’s trial date in Washington is slated for September 17.

Ellis wrote earlier this month that Manafort, 68, “faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison,” if convicted.

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