On the day Paul Manafort was indicted in 2017, his defense lawyer Kevin Downing stepped out of the courthouse in Washington and declared the case “ridiculous.”

Downing said the special counsel’s office was advancing a “very novel theory” to charge Manafort with failing to disclose his past lobbying work for Ukraine. Since the mid-1960s, Downing said, the U.S. government had pursued only a half dozen criminal cases under the law he called “FARA”—the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

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