A fed­eral judge

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY SPENCER S. HSU spencer.hsu@wash­post.com Rachel Weiner con­trib­uted to this re­port.

re­fused to toss charges against Paul Manafort, re­ject­ing claims that Robert S. Mueller III ex­ceeded his au­thor­ity.

A fed­eral judge in Wash­ing­ton re­fused to toss Paul Manafort’s crim­i­nal case Tues­day, say­ing his in­dict­ment “falls squarely” within spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s au­thor­ity to in­ves­ti­gate ties be­tween the Rus­sian govern­ment and Don­ald Trump’s 2016 cam­paign.

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

The de­ci­sion de­liv­ered an ex­pected vic­tory to pros­e­cu­tors and clears a key hurdle to a Septem­ber trial in Wash­ing­ton on at least some charges.

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

Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty in both cases and ar­gued that Mueller ex­ceeded his au­thor­ity in charg­ing him with felonies in­clud­ing con­spir­acy, bank and tax fraud, money laun­der­ing and fail­ing to reg­is­ter as a lob­by­ist in his work be­fore 2014 on be­half of Ukraine’s pro-Rus­sian pres­i­dent at the time, Vik­tor Yanukovych.

Fol­low­ing the re­lease of Jack­son’s opin­ion, Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said, “Paul Manafort main­tains his in­no­cence and looks for­ward to pre­vail­ing in this mat­ter.”

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 Rus­sia but any other is­sues that “may arise” from that in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

They ob­jected to Manafort be­ing charged for al­leged con­duct that oc­curred be­fore the 2016 cam­paign and as­serted that the au­tho­riza­tion for Mueller’s probe was so broad it was a “blank check” and vi­o­lates Jus­tice De­part­ment reg­u­la­tions they say call for a “spe­cific fac­tual state­ment” of mat­ters un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In her opin­ion, Jack­son re­jected those ar­gu­ments.

“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.”

Manafort, she wrote, “was, at one time, not merely ‘ as­so­ci­ated with,’ but the chair­man of, the Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, and his work on be­half of the Rus­si­abacked Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal party and con­nec­tions to other Rus­sian fig­ures are mat­ters of pub­lic record.”

She wrote that “given the com­bi­na­tion of his promi­nence within the cam­paign and his ties to Ukrainian of­fi­cials sup­ported by and op­er­at­ing out of Rus­sia, as well as to Rus­sian oli­garchs, Manafort was an ob­vi­ous per­son of in­ter­est.”

Manafort joined the Trump cam­paign in March 2016 and re­signed that Au­gust amid news re­ports about his ac­tiv­i­ties in Ukraine.

Manafort’s in­dict­ment in­cludes a con­spir­acy count cit­ing al­leged con­duct go­ing into 2016.

Tues­day’s opin­ion by Jack­son was is­sued days after both sides ar­gued a sim­i­lar set of is­sues to dis­miss charges be­fore U.S. Dis­trict Judge T.S. Ellis III. 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.

“It bears em­pha­siz­ing at this stage that Manafort is pre­sumed to be in­no­cent of th­ese charges. But the in­dict­ment will not be dis­missed, and the mat­ter will pro­ceed to trial.” U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amy Ber­man Jack­son

CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IM­AGES

Paul Manafort has been charged with con­spir­acy, bank and tax fraud, money laun­der­ing and fail­ing to reg­is­ter as a lob­by­ist in his work be­fore 2014 on be­half of Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych.

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