Prosecutors for special counsel Robert Mueller asked a federal court Friday to bar the defense for Paul Manafort from arguing charges against their client were brought because of his role in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“Manafort should … 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,” court filings obtained by Politico said.
Team Mueller also asked the judge in Alexandria, Virginia to prevent Manafort’s legal team from arguing the special counsel exceeded the scope of its investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials.
“Any such argument would be misleading to the extent it suggests that the Department ceased investigating Manafort before the appointment of the Special Counsel and had decided not to bring charges against him,” wrote attorneys working under Mueller. “It would also not make a fact more or less true. Instead, it would again invite jurors to consider impermissible factors.”
A federal judge last Friday revoked Manafort’s bail ahead of his trial on September 17, citing recently filed obstruction charges by prosecutor Andrew Weissman.
“I cannot turn a blind eye to this,” Judge Amy Berman told her D.C. courtroom as she revoked Manafort’s bail. “This isn’t middle school, I can’t take your phone.”
“According to an FBI affidavit included with the motion, Manafort used encrypted messaging applications in February to try to reach two unnamed business partners who could be witnesses to his alleged fraud and money laundering,” NBC reports.
Weissman alleged the former Trump campaign chairman contacted a public relations staffer, referred to as “D1,” as he vacationed with his wife in Italy.
“This is Paul, Paul Manafort. I need to give you a heads up about the Hapsburg Group,” the former Trump official said, according to court documents.
The staffer reportedly hung up on Manafort immediately.
The special counsel indicted Manafort in Washington and Virginia on charges ranging from tax fraud to conspiracy against the United States.
“Mr. Manafort is innocent and nothing about this latest allegation changes our defense,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told Breitbart News in June. “We will do our talking in court.”