Judge: Mueller can prosecute Manafort

Leroy Wright
May 16, 2018

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Tuesday rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's attempt to invalidate the criminal case against him in Washington.

Mueller's appointment order in May 2017 directs him to investigate links or coordination between Russian Federation and people associated with Trump's campaign.

Manafort's trial in Virginia is scheduled to begin on July 10, and his Washington, D.C., trial is slated for September.

Manafort has filed a similar motion to dismiss his charges in Virginia.

The ruling marks a setback for Mr Manafort, who last month was buoyed when the judge in the Alexandria case aggressively questioned prosecutors about whether their case was overly broad and mused that he believed they were using the charges to get him to turn over dirt on Mr Trump.

The former campaign manager for President Trump is being charged in Washington D.C. with failing to register as a lobbyist while working in Ukraine.

"Paul Manafort maintains his innocence and looks forward to prevailing in this matter", his spokesman, Jason Maloni, said in an email. That memo explicitly gave the special counsel authority to probe all of Mr Manafort's Ukraine-related work predating the 2016 campaign. Jackson said that even if Mueller proceeded on Manafort as a "matter that arose" from the investigation, the indictment should stand.

He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, none of which are directly related to work he performed for Mr Trump's campaign.

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"The indictment falls squarely within that portion of the authority granted to the Special Counsel that Manafort finds unobjectionable: the order to investigate 'any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign, '" Jackson wrote on Tuesday.

"Given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukranian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest", the ruling reads.

Those regulations, Jackson said, "place no boundaries on who can be investigated or what charges can be brought-what they address is who decides who the prosecutor will be".

"This is exactly what the Department of Justice regulations contemplate".

Finally, Mueller was appointed "to take over an existing investigation". He has also argued that Mr Mueller's case against him has nothing to do with Russian interference in 2016 election, and that the probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into his Ukraine dealings predates the Russia probe.

As Judge Jackson explains, Manafort's challenge to Mueller's authority fails for four reasons. Ellis, who has yet to issue an order, has asked to see an unredacted copy of the memo that lays out the special counsel's lines of investigation.

Ellis, a 1987 Reagan appointee, said the special counsel still may well have the authority to bring the charges, adding at one point, "I'm not saying it's illegitimate". The Virginia federal judge, TS Ellis, has not yet ruled on the question.

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