Special counsel Robert Mueller was working within his authority when he brought charges against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a federal judge in Washington ruled Tuesday. The decision was a setback for Manafort in his defense against charges of money-laundering conspiracy, false statements and acting as an unregistered foreign agent related to his Ukrainian political work. Manafort had argued that Mueller had exceeded his authority because the case was unrelated to Russian election interference. But US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson disagreed, the AP reports. Citing Manafort's years of work in Ukraine, his prominent role on the Trump campaign and his publicized connections to Russian figures, Jackson said it was "logical and appropriate" for Mueller's team to scrutinize him as part of their investigation into Russian election meddling and possible coordination with Trump associates.
In her 37-page ruling, Jackson went through a point-by-point rejection of Manafort's arguments, including his contention that Mueller had been given a "blank check" to investigate anything "he may stumble across." Jackson said Justice Department regulations allow for a "broad grant of authority" for special counsels. 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. Jackson had previously thrown out a civil case Manafort brought challenging Mueller's authority. Her decision Tuesday allows one of two criminal cases against Manafort to proceed. In addition to the Washington indictment, Manafort also faces charges in Virginia of bank fraud and tax evasion. None of the charges against Manafort involve crimes related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.