A federal judge on Tuesday denied former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s motion to dismiss the indictment returned against him by a grand jury in Washington, DC — rejecting Manafort’s challenge to special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.
This is the second time that US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has rejected efforts by Manafort to invalidate Mueller’s appointment. She previously dismissed a civil lawsuit that Manafort filed raising similar arguments in the hopes of stopping the special counsel’s office from indicting him again in the future; Tuesday’s ruling means that the criminal charges already filed against him in the US District Court for the District of Columbia will go forward.
Jackson wrote that “the indictment falls squarely within that portion of the authority granted to the Special
Counsel that Manafort finds unobjectionable: the order to investigate ‘any links and/or
coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign,'” citing Mueller’s original appointment order last May.
Given Manafort’s position with Trump’s campaign in 2016 and his past work for pro-Russia political figures and parties in Ukraine, it was “logical and appropriate” for investigators to focus on him, Jackson wrote.
Even if the charges against Manafort didn’t fall under that section of Mueller’s appointment order, Manafort’s motion would still fail because his argument was rooted in internal Justice Department regulations that don’t create any legal rights that an individual could go to court to enforce, the judge concluded.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s order appointing Mueller had stated that in addition to the Russia probe, Mueller had authority to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Manafort had argued that language gave Mueller too much undefined power from the start.
Jackson disagreed, writing that Rosenstein had the authority “to define the Special Counsel’s charter broadly.” She said that Mueller didn’t write his own job description — he inherited a preexisting investigation into Manafort — and Rosenstein had confirmed in writing that Mueller was authorized to investigate Manafort’s pre-campaign business activities.
A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office declined to comment. A spokesperson for Manafort did not immediately respond.
Manafort is facing a separate indictment out of Mueller’s investigation in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. US District Judge TS Ellis III heard arguments on Manafort’s motion to dismiss those charges earlier this month — pressing the lawyer arguing for Mueller’s office about how Manafort’s case related to the Russia probe — but he has not ruled yet.
This is a developing story. Check back at BuzzFeed News for updates.