Judge: Mueller can prosecute Manafort

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The ruling marks a setback for Mr Manafort, who last month was buoyed when the judge in the Alexandria case aggressively questioned prosecutors about whether their case was overly broad and mused that he believed they were using the charges to get him to turn over dirt on Mr Trump.

Jackson ordered that Robert Mueller's authority under the special counsel guidelines is wide enough to cover investigation of Manafort, given he was Trump's campaign chairman.

In a sharp rebuke of those claims, judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States district court for the District of Columbia ruled that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had followed all the justice department's rules when he hired Mr Mueller and the case against Mr Manafort is not overly broad or improper. The ruling clears the way for a trial in September. Manafort was the campaign's chairman, and "his work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record". "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".

"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.

"The Special Counsel was authorized from the start to investigate the defendant not only for coordinating with the Russian government, but also for violations of law arising out of payments received from the former President of Ukraine", the document said Tuesday.

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The special counsel's office declined to comment on Jackson's memorandum opinion.

The judge deemed that the indictment "falls squarely within that portion of the authority granted to the Special Counsel", according to The Atlantic staff writer Natasha Bertrand. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who is overseeing that case, is weighing a similar challenge to Mueller's authority in a request to dismiss a tax- and bank-fraud case against him.

Her ruling also pointed to an August 2017 memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that detailed the scope of Mueller's investigation. At a May 4 hearing, Ellis posed a series of sharp questions to a Justice Department lawyer, suggesting he may dismiss the case.

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".

Jackson was not moved by Manafort's argument that the case should be dismissed on the grounds that his Ukraine dealings predated the 2016 election by at least two years.

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