A federal judge
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
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.