In endorsing Mr Mueller’s broad legal purview, Judge Amy Berman Jackson offered a counterpoint to critics – among them Donald Trump himself – who argue that Mr Mueller’s investigation has grown too large and overstepped its original intent.
“The indictment will not be dismissed,” judge Jackson wrote, “and the matter will proceed to trial”.
The directive empowering Mr Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election encompasses both “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign go President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”.
As part of that investigation, Mr Mueller has charged Mr Manafort in connection with his alleged efforts to conceal the proceeds from political consulting and lobbying work for Ukrainian clients.
In addition to pleading not guilty and denying any wrongdoing, Mr Manafort filed a civil lawsuit against Mr Mueller and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein – who appointed Mr Mueller to lead the Russia probe – arguing the investigation had unjustifiably expanded beyond looking at Russian interference in the election.
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“None of the charges relate to Mr. Manafort’s activities during his brief stint in 2016 as the campaign manager for the Trump presidential campaign”, the lawsuit says, arguing the inquiry had extended “far beyond” potential links between Russia and the campaign and grown to focus on “Mr. Manafort’s offshore business dealings” that far precede the Trump campaign.
But Judge Jackson repudiated that argument, noting that Mr Manafort was nor merely “associated with” the Trump campaign but its one-time manager.
“His work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record”, she wrote, so “it was logical and appropriate” for investigators to focus on him.
She also noted that the rules covering the appointment of special counsels allow for prosecutors to explore “paths that branch out naturally from the original investigation, as well as entirely new and disconnected allegations”.
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The president has raged against Mr Mueller’s probe, deriding it as an unfounded “witch hunt” advanced by partisan holdovers at the Department of Justice.
He has been adamant that his campaign did not collude with the Russian government and has cautioned against Mr Mueller widening his focus beyond the question of coordination with Russia, warning Mr Mueller would cross a “red line” if he began delving into the Trump family’s finances.