Special counsel seeks to bar vindictive prosecution claim

Special counsel seeks to bar vindictive prosecution claim

McLEAN, Va. (AP) – Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller‘s office want to bar former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from arguing at his Virginia trial that he‘s a victim of vindictive prosecution.

Mueller‘s lawyers filed their motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria ahead of next month‘s scheduled trial. Manafort is charged in Virginia with hiding from the IRS tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine. He faces a separate indictment in Washington later this year.

Prosecutors also want to bar Manafort‘s lawyers from telling jurors that the government investigated Manafort years ago only to decide against pursuing the case. Prosecutors say that assertion is untrue.

The judge in the Virginia case, T.S. Ellis III, questioned prosecutors‘ motives sharply at a hearing last month, suggesting they are trying to get Manafort to “sing” against the president. The judge‘s comments came in a hearing where defense lawyers argued that the case should be tossed out of court because the charges against Manafort are unconnected to the special counsel‘s mandate to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether any coordination with Trump associates occurred.

Ellis has not yet ruled on the motion to dismiss, though the judge presiding over the case in the District of Columbia rejected a similar argument there.

In court papers, prosecutors argued Friday that Manafort is free to make an argument of selective or vindictive prosecution in pretrial hearings seeking to have the case dismissed. Once the case makes it to trial, though, prosecutors said any claim of selective prosecution becomes irrelevant.

“The government‘s reasons for initiating a prosecution have nothing to do with whether the evidence at trial proves the elements of the charged offenses, which is the sole question that the jury must answer,” prosecutors Andrew Weissmann, Greg Andres and Uzo Asonye wrote.

A spokesman for Manafort declined comment Friday afternoon.

A pretrial hearing in the Alexandria case is scheduled for June 29.

Manafort is jailed while he awaits trial after the judge in the District case decided to revoke his bail after prosecutors alleged Manafort was engaging in witness tampering.

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