Special counsel Mueller had authority to prosecute Manafort, federal judge rules

A federal judge in Washington says special counsel Robert Mueller was working within his authority when he brought charges against president Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. AP

A federal judge in Washington says special counsel Robert Mueller was working within his authority when he brought charges against president Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. AP

Paul Manafort has struck out again in his efforts to get Special Counsel Robert Mueller's case against him thrown out or curtailed on the basis that Mueller's investigation was improper. Jackson refused to dismiss that criminal case.

He has also argued that 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.

Referring to Mueller's appointment order, she said that the charges fell "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.' (Manafort had also challenged the provision of the appointment order that said that Mueller could investigate matters "that arose or may arise directly" from the probe)".

Manafort, a former chairman for the Trump campaign, has been charged in D.C. with money laundering, failure to register foreign lobbying and false statements.

Jackson said Justice Department regulations allow for a "broad grant of authority".

Later in the opinion, the judge clearly says that it was squarely within Mueller's scope to pursue Manafort's links to Russian Federation.

She cited an August 2017 memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that prosecutors had filed in the case. The memo showed Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort's Ukrainian work and related financial crimes.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel's office, declined to comment.

This means that the criminal case against Manafort in Washington D.C. can move forward.

In addition to the Washington indictment, Manafort also faces charges in Virginia of bank fraud and tax evasion.

"It bears emphasizing at this stage that Manafort is presumed to be innocent of these charges, and it will be the prosecution's burden to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt".

"The motion to dismiss will be denied for a number of reasons", ruled U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in a 36-page opinion. Manafort has asked a different federal judge there to dismiss his case on similar grounds.