Kevin Downing, attorney for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, said Monday that the indictment against his client was “ridiculous.”
Mr. Downing said there was “no evidence” of collusion by Mr. Manafort or anyone in the Trump campaign, adding that Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine were to “further democracy” and help Ukraine “come closer” to the United States and European Union.
“Those activities ended in 2014, over two years before Mr. Manafort served in the Trump campaign,” Mr. Downing told reporters outside the U.S. District Courthouse in D.C.
The attorney also questioned the grounds for the indictment, explaining that it was based on the Foreign Agents Registration Act filing that requires all persons representing foreign powers to disclose that relationship and information about the relationship, including finances, to the U.S. government.
“The United States government has only used that offense six times,” he said. “Since 1966, it only resulted in one conviction.”
Mr. Downing also blasted claims that Mr. Manafort’s reported offshore accounts were acts to deceive the U.S. government.
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“The second thing about this indictment, that I myself find most ridiculous, is a claim that maintaining offshore accounts, to bring all your funds into the United States, as a scheme to conceal from the United States government is ridiculous,” he said.
Mr. Downing spoke after a Monday court appearance for Mr. Manafort, who along with longtime business partner Rick Gates was indicted on 12 counts of money laundering and tax evasion from work they did in Ukrainian politics.
Mr. Gates declined to comment after Monday’s court appearance.
A spokesman for Mr. Gates said in a statement to ABC News that he “welcomes the opportunity to confront these charges in court” adding that “this fight is just beginning.” He also said the charges are politically motivated.
“In the meanwhile, he would appreciate you respecting his and his family’s privacy as they weather this unexpected and hasty proceeding designed to accommodate perhaps political and press considerations rather than his right to have counsel of his choice by his side during the most troubling and challenging day for him and his loved ones,” Glenn Selig, Mr. Gates’ spokesperson, said in a statement.
Mr. Gates was represented in court by a federal public defender Monday because he had not yet retained an attorney to represent him.
Federal public defender David Bos said it was Mr. Gates’ intention to retain counsel before a status hearing in the case that is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Both men were charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into claims the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.
• Andrea Noble contributed to this story.