PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia lawyer specializing in handling matters for western clients doing business in Russia and Ukraine says it’s hard to predict where Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe goes from here.
Attorney Bruce Marks says it’s important to make a distinction in this case that the alleged wrongdoing was centered on Paul Manafort’s dealings with Ukrainian clients.
“This is completely different than the so-called ‘Russia conspiracy,'” said Marks. “There’s no reason to believe, based on this indictment, that the Trump campaign had any collusion with the Russians.”
Linda Dale Hoffa, a partner at Dilworth Paxson and chair of the firm’s white collar and government investigation group, says the government’s burden in this case is high.
“Everyone has a presumption of innocence,” she says.
But as a former U.S. attorney herself, she says there is a reason this indictment is so precise. It outlines the millions Manafort allegedly stashed in foreign accounts before laundering it back to the U.S.
“Mortgages were taken out and cash was accumulated in that way,” said Hoffa. “I think the specifics of the indictment are important because it shows the detail and the level of detail that the special prosecution team has gone into to trace all the money.”
Prominent Philadelphia defense attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. is also closely following the case.
“I think you poke holes by clearly showing you were doing legitimate business as a lobbyist for a legitimate client,” Perri says.
He says if he was defending Manafort he would make sure jurors understood lobbying for another country is not illegal.
“There will be no question here that there was a legitimate business that was being done and maybe you can characterize some of the money laundering acts as simply poor bookkeeping,” said Perri.
The charges include conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal – in this case Ukraine, and failure to report foreign bank accounts and transactions.
Marks notes the charges against Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates, are unrelated to the Trump campaign, although it’s possible Mueller could add additional charges. He also says when prosecutors put defendants like Manafort in the crosshairs, “sometimes they provide information that’s helpful in a separate type of investigation.”
Marks’ firm specializes in cross-border commercial transactions and litigation between Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S. He was a Republican state senator representing Philadelphia for one year, in 1994.