Mueller Seeks to Bar Manafort ‘Selective Prosecution’ Argument

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller asked a federal judge to block Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, from arguing at his trial in September that prosecutors are selectively targeting him for vindictive reasons.

Prosecutors also want to bar Manafort from introducing evidence that he was previously investigated but not charged before Mueller was appointed in May 2017. The requests came in a court filing Monday in Washington, where Manafort is accused of money laundering, obstruction of justice and failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine.

In the filing, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to preclude Manafort from arguing to jurors about Mueller’s motive or the scope of his appointment.

“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 and Greg Andres argued in the seven-page filing.

They also argued that Manafort, 69, shouldn’t suggest that “prosecutors in this case have resurrected charges that the Department of Justice previously investigated but declined to prosecute or determined not to be meritorious.”

Such an argument would be misleading, they wrote, because it would suggest that prosecutors stopped their Manafort investigation before Mueller was appointed to examine links between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016.

Manafort also faces a July 25 trial in Alexandria, Virginia, where he is accused of bank fraud and tax crimes.

His lawyers are appealing a June 15 order by Jackson that sent him to jail after prosecutors accused him of attempting to tamper with witnesses. He is being held at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Alexandria, where he remains in his cell for 23 hours a day when he’s not meeting his lawyers.

Manafort also has asked the judge in Alexandria to move his case to Roanoke, Virginia, and to delay his trial until after the Washington case has ended.

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