A federal judge has rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s attempt to toss out a money laundering charge stemming from his use of offshore bank accounts funded by a lobbying campaign he masterminded on behalf of political interests in Ukraine.
Manafort’s defense team argued that the tens of millions of dollars he’s accused of laundering didn’t qualify as the proceeds of criminal activity because lobbying for a foreign entity in the U.S. is legal and the only crime Manafort may have committed in that regard is failing to register.
But U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson disagreed.
"It is a crime to ‘act’ [as a foreign agent] ‘unless’ one has registered – the statute does not simply state that the failure to register is unlawful," Jackson wrote in a nine-page decision issued Friday. "These laws are not just about paperwork; their object is to ensure that no person acts to advance the interests of a foreign government or principal within the United States unless the public has been properly notified of his or her allegiance."
Manafort’s attorneys had hoped that they could knock out not only the money laundering charge he faces, but also wipe out a forfeiture claim that appears to have tied up much of the veteran lobbyist’s funds as he seeks to mount a costly defense against two criminal cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.
One case, overseen by Jackson in Washington, involves charges of failing to register as a foreign agent and lying to authorities. The other, before another judge in Alexandria, Virginia, charges Manafort with tax evasion, bank fraud and failing to report overseas bank accounts.
Manafort’s defense has gotten little traction before Jackson, who has turned down a broad challenge to Mueller’s authority as well as a motion seeking to suppress evidence the FBI seized from a storage unit Manafort used.
The most serious blow from Jackson came last Friday, however, as she revoked Manafort’s home detention and ordered him jailed after he was hit with new charges alleging that he attempted to coach two witnesses on testimony related to the case. The 69-year-old political consultant is now at a Virginia jail about two hours’ drive south of Washington.
At a hearing last month, the judge overseeing the Alexandria-based case, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, sounded considerably friendlier to the defense as he raised pointed questions about the scope of Mueller’s role. However, Ellis has yet to rule on the defense’s motion to toss out that indictment.
Manafort is set for trial in the Virginia case beginning July 25, with trial in the Washington case set to follow on Sept. 17.
Spokespeople for Manafort and Mueller did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest ruling.
The original story can be found here.
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