(TNS) — A federal judge on Tuesday rejected ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s long-shot request to throw out all charges against him, effectively clearing the way for his case to go to trial.
Manafort, who faces a list of charges, including conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, bank and wire fraud, has argued his indictment is the product of an overzealous special prosecutor who overstepped his investigative scope by looking into his past business dealing in Ukraine.
But, for a second time, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson struck down Manafort’s argument Tuesday.
“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,’” Jackson wrote, quoting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller last May.
Jackson previously threw out a civil lawsuit from Manafort making similar arguments in hopes it would bar Mueller from filing additional charges against him.
Manafort, 69, headed President Donald Trump’s campaign between June and August 2016, and attended a high-profile Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives who had promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Considering Manafort’s senior position, Judge Jackson argued Mueller was permitted significant leeway while investigating Manafort as part of his probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
“Who had connections to the Russian government? Who attended meetings on behalf of the campaign?” Jackson wrote, emulating possible questions Mueller’s investigators might be asking. “Given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest.”
Manafort is slated to go on trial in Washington, D.C., this September.
Manafort is also facing a separate set of financial crime charges in Virginia, where he’s expected to go on trial this July.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, lamented Jackson’s Tuesday ruling.
“Paul Manafort maintains his innocence and looks forward to prevailing in this matter,” Maloni told The New York Daily News.
Most of the charges brought against Manafort relate to lobbying work he did for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Putin politician wanted in his home country for high treason.
Rick Gates, Manafort’s business partner and fellow ex-Trump campaign official, was indicted along with Manafort.
Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI earlier this year and is cooperating with Mueller’s investigators.
Trump, who routinely blasts Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt,” came to an unusual defense of his former campaign chairman earlier this month.
“He is a good person. He really is,” Trump said of Manafort while addressing the National Rifle Association’s convention in Dallas on May 4. “I believe he is a good person.”