WASHINGTON — Lawyers defending President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort mounted their first counterattack against federal money laundering and conspiracy charges on Thursday, insisting that federal prosecutors had “embellished” the strength of their case.
Manafort and another former Trump aide, Rick Gates, have been under house arrest since Monday, when special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed a 12-count indictment tied to their work on behalf of a pro-Russian faction in Ukraine. The charges that both served as unregistered agents of a foreign government then laundered their profits into the United States are part of Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
Manafort’s lawyers, Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle, said in a court filing Thursday that the case was overblown.
They said the laws governing Manafort’s work in Ukraine are unclear. The money laundering charges are just a “facade,” they added, noting that “in an international scheme to conceal assets, individuals generally move them offshore, not to the United States.”
Their response came the same day Manafort and his business and campaign associate Gates appeared briefly in federal court. U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson ordered that they remain on house arrest and GPS monitoring at least through the weekend, saying she had “concerns” that both men could be a flight risk.[contentcards url=”https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/11/02/paul-manafort-not-serious-flight-risk-his-lawyer-argues-before-court-appearance/824983001/” target=”_blank”]