Manafort lawyers seek dismissal of charges they say predate 2016 campaign, don’t involve Russia

Special to

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Paul Manafort, former campaign chief of U.S. President Donald Trump.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman asked a judge on March 14 to dismiss criminal charges he faces related to his foreign lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine’s former pro-Russia president.

Paul Manafort, the former campaign chief of U.S. President Donald Trump. / Jacquelyn Martin / AP

In a series of motions, attorneys for Paul Manafort attacked the case brought against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying Mueller exceeded his authority in prosecuting Manafort on criminal charges that date back more than a decade.

Manafort, 68, is accused of money laundering, tax fraud, and banking fraud connected to work he and his partner Richard Gates did for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government from 2006 to 2014, when Yanukovych was ousted by pro-European Maidan street protests and fled to Russia.

Manafort’s motion to dismiss was his first volley in a criminal case that exposes him to the possibility of several years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.

Manafort’s lawyers argue that Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute him since the allegations in the indictment predate the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller was appointed primarily to investigate connections between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, but the U.S. special counsel law allows him to prosecute any crime uncovered by his investigation.

“It is a blank check the special counsel has cashed, repeatedly,” Manafort’s lawyers said.

The case against Manafort does “not focus in the slightest on alleged coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, or even Mr. Manafort’s brief involvement in the campaign,” they said.

Instead, the indictments are focused on foreign consulting work for Yanukovych that ended in 2014 and on years-old bank accounts and tax filings, they said.

Lawyers for the Justice Department have argued that Mueller is well within his authority.

Motions to dismiss are commonly filed in U.S. criminal cases but are rarely granted by the courts.