Judge throws out Manafort's latest attempt to block Mueller

Elias Hubbard
May 16, 2018

In a court filing Monday, lawyers for the company say special counsel Robert Mueller has charged a "case that has absolutely nothing to do with any links or coordination between any candidate and the Russian Government".

Manafort had argued that Mueller has exceeded his investigatory authority and that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's directive for Mueller to pursue "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation" fell outside the scope of Justice Department regulations on special counsels.

The charges before Judge Jackson arise out of Manafort's "lobbying and political consulting activities on behalf of Ukraine, the pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, and the former President of Ukraine who fled to Russian Federation in 2014".

"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".

Manafort, who performed lobbying work for a pro-Russian former Ukrainian president before serving as Trump's campaign chairman in 2016, is facing two indictments brought by Mueller in federal courts in Washington and Alexandria, Virginia. The memo shows Rosenstein specifically authorised Mueller to investigate payments Manafort received from the Ukrainian government "before and during the tenure" of then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was one of Manafort's clients. "Who attended meetings on behalf of the campaign?"

The indictment said Concord was controlled by Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin, who USA officials have said has extensive ties to Russia's military and political establishment.

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.

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, later responded to the ruling: "Paul Manafort maintains his innocence and looks forward to prevailing in this matter". His trial is scheduled to start September 17. He faces a second set of charges in Virginia that include bank fraud and filing false tax returns. Manafort has asked a different federal judge there to dismiss his case on similar grounds. But Ellis also suggested that if he ruled in Manafort's favor, the case could simply be returned to the USA attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

As Judge Jackson explains, Manafort's challenge to Mueller's authority fails for four reasons.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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