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Paul Manafort. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Paul Manafort's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, filed in D.C. by special counsel Robert Mueller, which includes five charges against Manafort for failing to register as a foreign agent and for money laundering.

The argument: His lawyers, Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle, say the indictment isn't fair because Mueller is operating outside of the scope of his initial duty: to determine whether and how Russia worked with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Downing and Zehnle argued that Mueller's exceeding "power is not merely tantamount to a blank check. It is a blank check the Special Counsel has cashed repeatedly."

The other side: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia probe and Mueller's actions, told USA Today, "The special counsel is not an unguided missile... I'm very confident that when the history of this era is written, it will reflect that the department was operated with integrity."

But Manafort's team is taking issue with Mueller investigating the former Trump campaign manager for things that happened before 2016. In particular, Manafort's "suspicious" banking activity in 2014, which the FBI decided was "too petty" then to charge him for anything, according to a BuzzFeed review of internal FBI emails.

  • Another set of documents in the motion explains why, according to his lawyers, two of the five counts "charge a single offense" regarding his issues with registering as a foreign agent. Therefore, they argue, these two charges could unfairly influence the jury by making it seem like Manafort "has committed not one, but several, offenses."
  • Manafort's team filed a similar motion to dismiss said charges in January.

What's next: U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson has scheduled a hearing for April 19 to discuss this motion. Manafort faces 18 other charges from Mueller in Virginia (regarding bank fraud, tax fraud, and issues with reporting overseas bank account activity) that his defense team will likely challenge after the April 19 hearing.

What they're saying: "It's clear the defense has a Plan A, B, C, and so on, which is logical," said a person in the litigation communications industry who has been following the case. "This likely won’t be resolved for years even if Paul Manafort is successful in his initial motion to dismiss these charges. He appears to have a well thought-out defense and is playing the long game."

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

6 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 7 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."