Judge rejects Manafort motion to dismiss Russia probe charges

Judge rejects Manafort motion to dismiss Russia probe charges
© Greg Nash

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFailings by WhatsApp, Signal and others highlight the need to take back our privacy The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump eyes second Putin summit MORE's request to toss out five criminal charges against him in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia investigation.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in Washington, D.C., that Mueller had the right to bring the charges against Manafort, shutting down the argument by Manafort's lawyer that they had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. 

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Jackson wrote that "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 judge maintained that it was appropriate for investigators to look into Manafort's lobbying history while probing possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russia, saying the Manafort indictment fell "squarely" in the authority granted to Mueller by the Justice Department.

Manafort's attorneys had argued the special counsel was taking too broad a view of its powers and pushed to remove his indictment on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent.

"The appointment order here purports to give the Special Counsel power to investigate a specifically identified matter and anything that arises in the course of the investigation, without further consulting or obtaining approval from the Attorney General or Acting Attorney General," read a filing from Manafort's lawyer earlier this year. "The regulations do not allow for such an expansive appointment."

In April, Jackson also dismissed a civil complaint from Manafort challenging the scope of Mueller's probe.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiracy against the U.S. related to his lobbying work for a Ukrainian political party.

A judge in Virginia, overseeing a separate case against Manafort for possible bank fraud and other alleged financial crimes, expressed deep skepticism earlier this month that charges in that probe were genuinely related to Mueller's investigation.

Manafort is set to go on trial in the Virginia case in July and in the D.C. case in September.

Josh Delk contributed to this report, which was updated at 6:10 p.m.