May. 17, 2018 2:42 PM EDT
Judge in Manafort case gets details of Mueller probe scope
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WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge overseeing a case against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has now joined the small group of Americans who know the details of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Mueller’s prosecutors on Thursday provided U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III a copy of a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last August. The memo goes into more detail than Mueller’s public appointment order laying out the specific activities he is authorized to investigate, at least through the middle of last year.
Prosecutors had publicly filed in court a heavily redacted copy of the three-page memo last month, revealing that Rosenstein had given Mueller authority to investigate Manafort’s Ukrainian political work in addition to Russian election meddling.
Ellis had bristled at the redactions and requested a full copy be provided to him under seal while he considers a motion Manafort filed challenging the special counsel’s authority to prosecute him.
The Aug. 2 memo was drafted before any of the indictments and guilty pleas being filed by Mueller’s office, so it likely contains references to some of those public cases.
In total, Mueller has brought charges against 19 people — including four Trump campaign advisers — and three Russian companies over the past year.
Those cases include former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos , whose activity triggered the FBI’s initial Russia investigation, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn , who was under scrutiny for nearly a year for his contacts with Russian officials and his unregistered lobbying for Turkish interests.
Both Papadopoulos and Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI.
Manafort, who pleaded not guilty and has denied wrongdoing, faces two criminal cases, one in Ellis’ court in Virginia and another in Washington.
Across both cases, Manafort faces charges of bank fraud, tax evasion, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and false statements related to his work on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. None of the charges relate directly to Russian election interference and possible coordination with Trump associates, the brunt of Mueller’s public mandate.
Manafort has cited that in arguing that Mueller didn’t have the authority to prosecute him.
In a hearing last month, Ellis grilled Mueller’s team on whether the case was within his mandate and questioned whether they brought the case to get Manafort to testify against Trump.
So far, Manafort’s argument hasn’t been met with success. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who presides over his case in Washington, rejected it in denying his request to throw out the charges.
Jackson ruled that Mueller was within his authority when he brought the charges. She had previously thrown out a civil case Manafort brought on similar grounds.
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