Published: Wed, May 16, 2018

Judge rules Mueller has authority to prosecute former Trump campaign chairman Manafort

Judge rules Mueller has authority to prosecute former Trump campaign chairman Manafort

A federal judge refused on Tuesday to dismiss criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, after Manafort claimed that Mueller had exceeded his prosecutorial powers.

In a sharp rebuke of those claims, judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. district court for the District of Columbia ruled that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had followed all the justice department's rules when he hired Mr Mueller and the case against Mr Manafort is not overly broad or improper.

Jackson wrote that "the Special Counsel was authorized from the start to investigate the defendant not only for coordinating with the Russian government, but also for violations of law arising out of payments received from the former President of Ukraine". Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment.

In response to these charges, Manafort claimed that he could not be prosecuted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller because the particular charges against him are outside of Mueller's properly delegated authority.

The decision was a setback for Paul Manafort in his defense against charges of money-laundering conspiracy, false statements and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Jackson previously had thrown out a civil case Manafort brought challenging Mueller's authority. Manafort has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing. Jackson said that even if the Manafort case didn't arise from links to Russian Federation, and instead was a matter that arose from that investigation, the indictment should stand.


He faces a separate set of bank fraud and other financial charges in Virginia, for a trial set to begin in July. And Donald Trump cited them in a speech to the National Rifle Association to claim that Mueller's indictment is a "phony Russian Federation witch hunt".

The charges before Judge Jackson arise out of Manafort's "lobbying and political consulting activities on behalf of Ukraine, the pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, and the former President of Ukraine who fled to Russian Federation in 2014".

Manafort was, at one time, not merely "associated with", but the chairman of, the Presidential campaign, and his work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record.

She cited an August 2017 memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that prosecutors had filed in the case. Manafort has asked a different federal judge there to dismiss his case on similar grounds. In that case, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia expressed skepticism earlier this month of the scope of Mueller's authority.

He told prosecutors to turn over a copy to him by Friday.

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