By Terence Cullen / New York Daily News
Paul Manafort shouldn’t be under house arrest because he had the chance to run and didn’t take it, his lawyers argued.
The legal team contended the veteran GOP strategist, due in court Friday afternoon, isn’t a flight risk because he consistently returned home from trips abroad despite the pending indictment.
“During this investigation period, Mr. Manafort traveled overseas on business and, to no one’s surprise, he returned to the United States,” lawyer Kevin Downing wrote in a memo filed in District Court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
The document lays out why Manafort shouldn’t be under such tight control, citing his strong family ties while branding the evidence against him as “embellished.”
Manafort and business associate Rick Gates were indicted Monday on a dozen charges including money laundering, tax evasion and failing to register as a foreign agent. Both men pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors labeled both men, who held top posts in the Trump campaign, flight risks because the “serious nature of the charges, their history of deceptive and misleading conduct, the potentially significant sentences the defendants face, the strong evidence of guilt, their significant financial resources, and their foreign connections.”
Adding to the suspicions were a cellphone and email address Manafort registered under an alias in March. He also made trips to China, Mexico and Ecuador between last May and June.
Downing, however, said it was highly unlikely Manafort would abandon his wife of 40 years or his children.
“To posit that he nevertheless poses a ‘serious’ risk of flight because he is 68 years old and, therefore, under the Government’s theory could potentially spend most of the remainder of his life in prison, completely ignores his strong family ties,” Downing wrote.
The $18 million the government wants to seize “would wipe out a substantial portion of Mr. Manafort’s wealth.”
Downing confirmed early reports that Manafort knew an indictment after the FBI conducted a “no-knock” raid on his home in Alexandria, Va.
The charges came from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Downing, along with the White House, noted earlier this week the charges had nothing to do with the Trump campaign.
Manafort headed the real estate developer’s bid from May to August 2016, during which time Trump secured the Republican nomination. During that time — and for several weeks after Manafort’s departure — Gates served in top positions of the campaign.