Paul Manafort’s ongoing legal issues are a distressing matter, even though they have literally nothing to do with the Donald Trump campaign. However, the way the legal system is treating the indictment is even worse.
Recently, Manafort’s lawyers suggested that Robert Mueller’s special prosecution had no right to prosecute him, and that the crimes he committed, completely unrelated to allegations of ‘Russian collusion,’ were outside the scope of the investigation. A federal judge yesterday decided that the Mueller investigation could try him, though, saying that the charges and indictment fell “squarely” within the scope of the investigation. Of course, this judge also declared that Catholics had to provide abortion services under Obamacare, so her claim on what is ‘logical and appropriate’ is already of questionable worth at best.
Currently, Manafort is facing charges related to work he performed for a Russian-backed politician in Ukraine. According to the charges, he failed to register as a foreign agent, and he attempted to hide his income from the Internal Revenue Service.
Yet, are these charges appropriate for the Mueller probe to bring forward? They relied on evidence gathered by the federal government, after all, and the charges have literally nothing to do with the alleged point of the investigation.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who was appointed by Barack Obama, apparently disagreed. She claimed that the charges fell within the realm of links “between the Russian government and individuals associated” with Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.
However, that certainly seems like an expansive assessment of the charges and the claims of misconduct on Manafort’s part.
Further, there was no evidence of Russian government involvement in anything Manafort dealt with.
Finally, the evidence that suggested he broke laws concerning properly registering as a foreign agent (which dozens of lobbyists fail to do) and failed to report income properly to the IRS did not come from the Mueller investigation, but rather from an earlier federal investigation.
Judge Jackson proclaimed that the defense’s argument was not legally persuasive, because the defendant was indicted for crimes that were part of the ‘core focus’ of the special investigation’s mandate.
That’s a frightful precedent for a federal judge to set, though, suggesting that all it takes for a ‘special investigation’ to expand beyond its stated scope is for the Attorney General (or his proxy) to supervise the investigation.
She even said that special counsel regulations cannot be enforced by defendants, a terrifying claim that basically suggests ‘special investigators’ can do what they like, and that defendants have little to no recourse if they violate regulations.
Perhaps most disturbing of all, Jackson instituted a gag order, limiting public statements by everyone except herself concerning the case. She is allowed to comment as she desires, but no one else is.
In the case before his court, Judge Ellis suggested that because the evidence for the indictment came from actions committed in 2005, it is far outside the scope of the Mueller case.
The judge also suggested that the indictment was not a serious attempt to seek redress for some crime Manafort committed, but instead a tactical choice on the special investigation’s part, hoping that it would force some sort of confession.
He even questioned how far the investigation would have to go before it was satisfied, as it still hasn’t turned up any evidence of ‘Russian collusion.’
Perhaps most interesting of all, Ellis set a deadline of Friday, May 18, and commanded that the special prosecutors turn over Rosenstein’s August 2017 ‘scope’ memo by then.
That means that in two days, the prosecution will either have to turn over a memo they’ve held as ‘privileged’ information, or they will have to face the dismissal of charges against Manafort in Virginia.
Jackson and Ellis’ decisions do not necessarily impact each other. However, if Ellis, who will oversee the trial in Virginia more than two months before the trial in Washington, dismisses the charges, it could provide solid legal grounds for dismissal of the second trial.
Most importantly, if the prosecution decides to show the ‘scope’ memo, it will reveal what the ACTUAL, legal imitations of the Mueller investigation are, and could show the country that the special investigation has become nothing more than a political fishing expedition.
Friday will be a revealing day for the Mueller investigation and for the country as a whole. The only question now is what will it reveal?