U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, on Tuesday asked a federal judge in Virginia to dismiss an indictment brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying the case falls outside the scope of Mueller’s authority and is unrelated to Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
Tuesday’s motion to dismiss was similar to one filed this month in another federal court in Washington, where Manafort is facing a separate but related indictment also brought by Mueller.
In the Virginia case, which is scheduled to go to trial on July 10, Manafort is facing charges including bank fraud and filing false tax returns.
In the Washington, D.C. case, which has a September trial date, he is accused of conspiring against the United States, conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent when he lobbied for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government.
None of the charges against him pertain to the 2016 presidential election or Russian interference.
Although Mueller is tasked with investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia – something Trump has denied – Mueller is also permitted to probe other matters that arise during the course of his investigation.
In Tuesday’s filing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Manafort’s lawyers said the charges against their client should be dropped because they were not a direct result of Mueller’s probe.
Rather, they said, the FBI already previously looked into the same underlying facts in 2014 before deciding not to pursue criminal charges.
In addition, they argued that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein exceeded his authority under Justice Department regulations when he drafted his order to appoint Mueller in May 2017 and that it gives Mueller too broad of an investigative mandate.
Manafort earlier this year also filed a civil lawsuit against the Justice Department, Mueller and Rosenstein making some of the same arguments and asking to have the indictment dropped.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the District of Columbia will hear arguments in the civil case at a hearing scheduled for April 4.
The two separate indictments against Manafort are seen as unusual. Normally such charges would be consolidated in one court, but Manafort has refused to allow this, which might be a legal tactic meant to make Mueller’s case more difficult.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman
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