A U.S. judge has refused to dismiss Special Counsel Robert Mueller's case against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on the grounds that it has nothing to do with alleged Russia meddling in the 2016 election.
In a pointed rejection of Manafort's claims late on May 15, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sided with Mueller, ruling that his case against Manafort is not overly broad or improper despite not being directly connected to the election.
Manafort was charged in connection with his lobbying work for a pro-Russian former Ukrainian president years before serving briefly as the head of Trump’s campaign in mid-2016.
The charges against him include conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the United States, and failing to register as a lobbyist for a foreign government. He faces a second set of charges in Virginia that include bank fraud and filing false tax returns.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, none of which are directly related to work he performed for Trump's campaign.
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.
Jackson said it was "logical and appropriate" for investigators to probe Manafort's dealings with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted by street protests in 2014 and now lives in exile in Russia.
"His work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record," Jackson wrote.
"The special counsel would have been remiss to ignore such an obvious potential link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government," Jackson wrote.
Her ruling also pointed to an August 2017 memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that detailed the scope of Mueller's investigation. That memo explicitly gave Mueller authority to probe all of Manafort's Ukraine-related work predating the 2016 campaign.
The ruling marks a setback for Manafort, who last month was buoyed when another U.S. judge in Virginia who is hearing the tax charges against him questioned prosecutors about whether their case went beyond the mandate of Mueller's Russia investigation.
That judge, T.S. Ellis, said he believed prosecutors were using the charges against Manafort to try to get him to turn against Trump. Ellis has not yet ruled on Manafort's motion to dismiss the charges against him in the tax case.
After Jackson's ruling against Manafort, his spokesman Jason Maloni said Manafort "maintains his innocence and looks forward to prevailing in this matter."