Judge: Special counsel had authority to prosecute Manafort


WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Robert Mueller was working within his authority when he brought charges against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, a federal judge in Washington ruled today.

The decision was a setback for Paul Manafort in his defense against charges of money-laundering conspiracy, false statements and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Manafort had argued that Mueller exceeded his authority because the case was unrelated to Russian election interference.

But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson disagreed.

Citing Manafort's years of work in Ukraine, his prominent role on the Trump campaign and his publicized connections to Russian figures, Judge Jackson said it was "logical and appropriate" for Mueller's team to scrutinize Manafort as part of their investigation into Russian election meddling and possible coordination with Trump associates.

"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," Judge Jackson wrote.

In her 37-page ruling, the judge went through a point-by-point rejection of Manafort's other arguments, including his contention Mueller had been given a "blank check" to investigate anything "he may stumble across."

Judge Jackson said Justice Department regulations allow for a "broad grant of authority." And regardless, she wrote, it was clear that Mueller had been specifically authorized to investigate not only Manafort's possible links to Russia but also his Ukrainian business.

She cited an August 2017 memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that prosecutors had filed in the case. The memo, which came months before Manafort's indictment, shows Rosenstein specifically authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort's Ukrainian work and related financial crimes.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel's office, declined to comment.

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