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

Approved'The Special Counsel would have been remiss to ignore such an obvious potential link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government' Judge Amy Berman Jackson said

A federal judge in Washington ruled Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller was working within his authority when he brought charges against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

"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.

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

Manafort had claimed special counsel Robert Mueller's appointment order was too broad, and thus his investigation had overstepped its legal authority.

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.

Kevin Downing, Manafort's lawyer, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling. Manafort's motion to dismiss the case Mueller brought against him in Virginia is still pending.

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

She added that it was appropriate for federal investigators to look into Manafort's business connections in Russia and Ukraine while Mueller's office investigated possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Manafort's attorneys have argued that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein acted improperly when he appointed Mueller in May 2017 to investigate not only collusion with Russian Federation but any other issues that "may arise" from that investigation. The charges against Manafort relate to his decade of work as a political consultant to Ukrainian politicians. And regardless, she wrote, it was clear that Mueller had been specifically authorized to investigate not only Manafort's possible links to Russian Federation but also his Ukrainian business.

He faces a separate set of bank fraud and other financial charges in Virginia, for a trial set to begin in July. It also accuses him of fraudulently obtaining millions in loans from financial institutions including while he worked for the Trump campaign.

"It bears emphasizing at this stage that Manafort is presumed to be innocent of these charges", she said, "But the indictment will not be dismissed, and the matter will proceed to trial".

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