Judge refuses to dismiss ex-Trump aide Manafort's criminal case

A USA judge has refused to dismiss Special Counsel Robert Mueller's case against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on the grounds that it has nothing to do with alleged Russian Federation meddling in the 2016 election.

"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. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment on the ruling. Manafort is charged with tax and bank fraud connected to his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia interests in Ukraine. "So even in the unlikely event that the Acting Attorney General and the Special Counsel never discussed what the investigation included at the time of the appointment, the singular event that defendant insists would be necessary to make his indictment valid - an explicit referral of the specific matter to the Special Counsel - has taken place".

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

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"Manafort complains that the appointment order 'purports to give the special counsel jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute anything else he might discover during the course of the original investigation", Jackson wrote, "but that is not what the order says". 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.

"His work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record", Jackson wrote. 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".

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

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Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation. The case will be assigned to an administrative law judge, who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing.

In her 37-page ruling, Jackson went through a point-by-point rejection of Manafort's arguments, including his contention that Mueller had been given a "blank check" to investigate anything "he may stumble across". US District Judge T.S. Ellis III has yet to rule on it. Ellis had previously grilled Mueller's team on whether the case was within his mandate and questioned whether they brought the case to get Manafort to testify against Trump.

Manafort's attorneys had argued the special counsel was taking too broad a view of its powers.

Manafort's defense lawyer, former MIller & Chevalier partner Kevin Downing, has stressed that the alleged misconduct predated the 2016 presidential campaign and therefore was outside Mueller's authority.

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  • Ryan Wade