16 May, 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 pointed rejection of Manafort's claims late on May 15, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sided with Mueller, ruling that his case against Manafort is not overly broad or improper despite not being directly connected to the election.
Manafort is scheduled for trial in DC in September.
Manafort, Jackson said, was not merely associated with President Donald Trump's campaign but served as its chairman for a time.
She added that it was appropriate for federal investigators to look into Manafort's business connections in Russia and Ukraine while Mueller's office investigated possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
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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".
"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.
Jackson said the case against Manafort should proceed even if scrutiny of his past activity came about not from the investigation of "links" to Russian but rather as a "matter that arose" from that probe. Ellis has not yet ruled on Manafort's motion to dismiss the charges against him in the tax case. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment on the ruling.
He faces a separate set of bank fraud and other financial charges in Virginia, for a trial set to begin in July. But in her decision, Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote, "The [Justice Department] regulations 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 said. Ellis has not yet ruled on Manafort's challenge to the indictment there. Previously Law&Crime speculated that maybe Trump might be waiting to see how the Manafort cases in EDVA and D.C. would shake out before making a decision about speaking to Mueller. 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.