A federal judge on Tuesday rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, to get an indictment against him dismissed by claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller's appointment was flawed.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled 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 Russian Federation investigation.
He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, none of which are directly related to work he performed for Mr Trump's campaign.
As Judge Jackson explains, Manafort's challenge to Mueller's authority fails for four reasons.
Second, even if Mueller had exceeded his authority, the regulations governing appointments of special counsel provide that they "are not meant to, do not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity, by any person or entity, in any matter, civil, criminal, or administrative".
"First, 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, '" she continued.
Manafort was, at one time, not merely "associated with", but the chairman of, the Presidential campaign, and his work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record.
"The Special Counsel would have been remiss to ignore such an obvious potential link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government", she wrote later in the opinion.
Later in the opinion, the judge clearly says that it was squarely within Mueller's scope to pursue Manafort's links to Russian Federation.
I don't see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate.
"It bears emphasizing at this stage that Manafort is presumed to be innocent of these charges", Jackson said.
Previously, Manafort was charged with a litany of formal accusations that are primarily related to his alleged efforts to submit false tax returns, failure to file reports about foreign bank accounts, and commit bank fraud. In that case, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia expressed skepticism earlier this month of the scope of Mueller's authority.
Although Trump's new attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested the delay had more to do with the leak of Mueller's potential questions for Trump, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raid on Michael Cohen's office and Trump's upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore, there was still a reason to pay close attention to Manafort.