In a legal setback for former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled on Tuesday that the Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections did not overstep its authority by bringing indictments against Manafort which were unrelated to the Russia probe.
“The motion to dismiss will be denied for a number of reasons,” wrote Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who argued in a 37 page decision that charges related to Manafort’s work in Ukraine – which predated the 2016 campaign – “falls squarely” within the authority granted to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“Manafort was, at one time, not merely “associated with,” but the chairman of, the Presidential campaign, and his work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record,” the judge added.
“Manafort was an obvious person of interest,” the judge wrote.
“It bears emphasizing at this stage that Manafort is presumed to be innocent of these charges, and it will be the prosecution’s burden to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Judge Jackson added. “But the indictment will not be dismissed, and the matter will proceed to trial.”
The decision comes about two weeks after another federal judge – T. S. Ellis, III – raised questions in a court hearing about the scope and breadth of the Mueller probe, giving hope to critics who believe that the investigation has overstepped its bounds.
Ellis is handling a case against Manafort in Virginia; Jackson in the District of Columbia.
The charges filed in Washington, D.C. relate to money laundering, and failure by Manafort to register as a foreign agent for the government of Ukraine.
The case originally involved both Manafort, and his top campaign deputy Rick Gates – but Gates is now cooperating with federal investigators.
This effort by Manafort was to dismiss the revised indictment filed by the Special Counsel filed along with Gates’ guilty plea.