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Mueller Is Not Out of Bounds, DC Judge Says in Upholding Manafort Charges

[caption id="attachment_3425" align="alignnone" width="616"] U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/The National Law Journal[/caption] A Washington federal judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss the criminal charges against former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, ruling that the “indictment falls squarely within” the authority given to the special counsel for the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia rejected Manafort’s argument that the scope of special counsel Robert Mueller's authority was overly broad. Manafort was indicted in October on charges of financial fraud and violating lobbying disclosure laws by failing to register his past work for the Russia-backed government of Ukraine. "The case did not arise in a vacuum, and the special counsel did not create his own job description," Jackson wrote. "He was appointed to take over an existing investigation, and it appears from the chronology and the written record that the matters contained in the superseding indictment were already a part of the ongoing inquiry that was lawfully transferred to the special counsel by the Department of Justice in May of 2017." Manafort's defense lawyer, former MIller & Chevalier partner Kevin Downing, has stressed that the alleged misconduct predated the 2016 presidential campaign and therefore was outside Mueller's authority. In his bid to dismiss the indictment, Downing took aim at a portion of an order establishing Mueller’s office that gave the special counsel the power to probe “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Jackson said the charges fell within even a separate portion of Mueller’s authority that Manafort has found "unobjectionable: the order to investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign.’” Manafort, Jackson said, was not merely associated with President Donald Trump's campaign but served as its chairman for a time. And his past ties to Ukrainian and Russian figures was a matter of public record, she noted. “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,” Jackson wrote. "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. “Thus, the indictment falls well within the authority granted to the special counsel to conduct the ongoing investigation." 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. It appeared from the record, the judge said, that the conduct at issue in the indictment was already part of an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice inquiry that was transferred to the special counsel. Jackson's ruling also offered support to the Justice Department regulations that gave rise to Mueller's appointment to lead the Russia investigation. "When it promulgated the regulations, the department anticipated that a special counsel, like any other prosecutor, could become aware of, and could have legitimate reasons to explore, paths that branch out naturally from the original investigation, as well as entirely new and disconnected allegations," Jackson wrote. 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." Manafort is facing separate fraud charges in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court. In that case, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia expressed skepticism earlier this month of the scope of Mueller's authority. Ellis has not yet ruled on Manafort's challenge to the indictment there.   Judge Amy Berman Jackson's ruling is posted below: [falcon-embed src="embed_1"] Read more: Russian Business Entity Rips Mueller's Charges as 'Make-Believe' Reed Smith's Russia Work in Mueller Case Gets Closeup in Court Former Tax Prosecutor Jay Nanavati in DC Joins Manafort Defense Team Paul Manafort Boosts Defense, Hiring Epstein Becker & Green's Richard Westling    

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson