Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is 0-2 in his attempts to get the indictments against him from Special Counsel Robert Mueller dismissed on accusations that Manafort’s actions were outside the scope of his investigatory mandate.
Last week, federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled against Manafort in his Washington DC-based case, saying that evidence discovered in a storage locker rented by the former campaign chairman was indeed admissible. That ruling came shortly after Manafort had his bail revoked and was sent to jail after being accused of attempting to tamper with witnesses in the case.
Today, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled that Mueller’s prosecution of Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges in a separate case in Virginia can proceed, according to an article in The Washington Post.
Observers were concerned in advance of the judge’s decision that he would rule in Manafort’s favor because of the stringent questioning prosecutors from Mueller’s team were subjected to by Judge Ellis earlier in the proceedings about whether the crimes Manafort is accused of committing while lobbying for a Russia-backed political party in the Ukraine were outside the scope of their investigation.
“The judge concluded that while he is, in general, skeptical of special counsels, this one was legally created and followed its mandate in prosecuting Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman,” The Washington Post reported.
“The May 2017 order appointing Mueller ‘plainly authorizes the investigation of indirect links between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government,’ Ellis wrote, and ‘the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes that arise out of his authorized investigation.'”
“That authorization was only made more clear, Ellis added, by an August 2017 memorandum explicitly stating that the Manafort investigation fell under the special counsel’s purview.”
Judge Ellis remained somewhat wary of Mueller’s probe into Manafort’s activities, however, indicating that he believes that the Special Counsel is using the prosecution of Manafort to get him to cooperate in the investigation of President Trump.
“Even a blind person can see that the true target of the Special Counsel’s investigation is President Trump, not defendant, and that defendant’s prosecution is part of that larger plan,” he wrote in a footnote. “Although these kinds of high-pressure prosecutorial tactics are neither uncommon nor illegal, they are distasteful.”
“Although this case will continue, those involved should be sensitive to the danger unleashed when political disagreements are transformed into partisan prosecutions,” the judge wrote.
While Judge Ellis may consider Mueller’s tactics distasteful, they are not nearly distasteful as the stealing of a presidential election with the assistance of foreign agents. Moreover, while the judge may question the politics behind the prosecution, Mueller has amassed significant evidence of tax evasion, money laundering, and bank fraud by Manafort in addition to his failure to register as a foreign agent as a lobbyist for the previous, Russia-allied Ukrainian government.
With Manafort’s two separate trials yet to actually begin, Trump’s former campaign chief will have plenty of time to contemplate his chances of conviction while he stews in prison awaiting his day in court and the evidence that will be presented against him there.
Hopefully, as those chances look to be increasingly diminishing, he will consider whether Donald Trump’s skin is worth saving with the sacrifice of his own freedom (at least until Trump’s offer of a pardon) or whether to cooperate and tell everything he knows to the Special Counsel.
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