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


A federal judge dealt president Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort a major blow on Tuesday by refusing to dismiss criminal charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, after Mr Manafort claimed that the probe has run amok and should be reined in.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia rejected Manafort's argument that the scope of special counsel Robert Mueller's authority was overly broad.

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".

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 an obvious person of interest", U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote in part of her 37-page opinion.

The charges Manafort faces in D.C. include money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

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Manafort had argued that since the charges Mueller brought against him stemmed from Ukraine lobbying work predating the 2016 campaign, they were outside the scope of the Russian collusion investigation for which Mueller had been appointed. Manafort was the campaign's chairman, and "his work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record".

Judge Jackson was not moved by any of Mr Manafort's assertions.

"[Ellis' comments] have really thrown this into a new dimension if there's a real possibility they [the special counsel's office] don't have authorization", Giuliani said, adding that if Ellis ruled against Mueller, "They're going to have a big problem".

Manafort has a similar motion pending to dismiss criminal charges set for trial in July in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

Third, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had broad authority to "authorize the Special Counsel to investigate not only 'links and/or coordination, ' but also, 'any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.'" So even if the charges against Manafort were not sufficiently tied to Russian Federation, they could still potentially proceed under the remainder of the powers delegated to Mueller. He has pleaded not guilty in that case, as well as in the charges that included bank fraud and tax fraud that were brought against him in Virginia. 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. Manafort had argued that Mueller had exceeded his authority because the case was unrelated to Russian election interference. But Ellis also suggested that if he ruled in Manafort's favor, the case could simply be returned to the US attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia.