Robert Mueller had authority to prosecute Paul Manafort: judge

Casey Dawson
May 16, 2018

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.

In a sharp rebuke of those claims, judge Amy Berman Jackson of USA district court for the District of Columbia ruled that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had followed all the justice department's rules when he hired Mr Mueller and the case against Mr Manafort is not overly broad or improper.

Manafort's trial in Virginia is scheduled to begin on July 10, and his Washington, D.C., trial is slated for September. Berman Jackson wrote. "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". Jackson said that even if the Manafort case didn't arise from links to Russian Federation, and instead was a matter that arose from that investigation, the indictment should stand. "It was logical and appropriate for investigators tasked with the investigation of "any links" between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign to direct their attention to him". "Who had connections to the Russian government?"

In response to the ruling, Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said: "Paul Manafort maintains his innocence and looks forward to prevailing in this matter".

The special counsel's office declined to comment on Jackson's memorandum opinion.

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"Even if a judge were to conclude that the regulations could give rise to rights that can be enforced in a courtroom", Judge Jackson wrote in her memorandum, "the Acting Attorney General did not violate those regulations when he exercised his statutory authority to authorize the Special Counsel to investigate not only 'links and/or coordination, ' but also, 'any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation'".

He said Mueller didn't care about Manafort's alleged bank and tax fraud and wanted to use Manafort as a vehicle to get to Trump.

To be clear, nothing in Jackson's decision is especially surprising - Manafort's challenge to Mueller's authority was always a long shot that was unlikely to prevail.

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". She cited not only the May 2017 appointment order, but also an August 2, 2017, memo by Rosenstein that further detailed the responsibility given to Mueller.

Jackson was not moved by Manafort's argument that the case should be dismissed on the grounds that his Ukraine dealings predated the 2016 election by at least two years.

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