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.
She cites the instructions drafted for Mueller by Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, which instruct the special counsel to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign". On May 4, Ellis ordered Mueller's prosecutors two weeks to provide "completely unredacted versions of [Deputy Attorney General] Rosenstein's orders assigning special counsel Mueller" before he would make a decision on keeping the Manafort indictment or dismissing it.
"Given what was being said publicly, the special counsel would have been remiss to ignore such an obvious potential link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government", Jackson said in the 37-page opinion. The ruling clears the way for a trial in September. Nevertheless, Manafort's claims seemed to take on a new life earlier this month when Judge T.S. Ellis, the judge hearing the remaining charges against Mueller, asked some skeptical questions about Mueller's authority during a recent hearing.
Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said, "Paul Manafort maintains his innocence and looks forward to prevailing in this matter".
Second, even if Mueller had exceeded his authority, the regulations governing appointments of special counsel provide that they "are not meant to, do not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity, by any person or entity, in any matter, civil, criminal, or administrative".
Manafort's lawyers' previous push for dismissal hinged on the argument that because the crimes in question do not directly relate to Mueller's core mandate - investigating whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow - he was not authorized to charge Manafort with them.
The special counsel's office declined to comment on Jackson's memorandum opinion.
Manafort faces a separate trial set for July 10 in Alexandria, Virginia.
In her ruling on Tuesday, Jackson expressed no such qualms about Mueller's authority.
Those regulations, Jackson said, "place no boundaries on who can be investigated or what charges can be brought-what they address is who decides who the prosecutor will be". Ellis has not yet ruled on Manafort's challenge to the indictment there.
Jackson's ruling also offered support to the Justice Department regulations that gave rise to Mueller's appointment to lead the Russian Federation investigation.
U.S. district judge Amy Jackson declined to throw out the case against Manafort, who faces two indictments from the special counsel.