The federal judge overseeing the second trial of Paul Manafort ruled that Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s team cannot discuss anything related to alleged Russian “collusion” during the trial because it is “wholly irrelevant,” according to Reuters.
During a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Obama-appointed U.S. Judge Amy Berman Jackson held allegations of supposed “collusion” regarding Russia during the 2016 presidential election have nothing to do with Manafort’s trial.
Berman said Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump‘s campaign and Russia is “wholly irrelevant to the charges in this case,” delivering a major blow to the special counsel.
Manafort’s hearing in the nation’s capital comes a few weeks after he was was found guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud in Virginia. The jury declared a mistrial on the other 10 counts brought forward by Mueller’s team in the case.
All of the 18 counts against Manafort pertained to alleged crimes that were committed many years before he joined the Trump campaign in 2016.
Manafort’s D.C. trial is set to begin jury selection on Sept. 17 and opening statements will follow on Sept. 24.
In the D.C. trial, Manafort is facing seven counts, ranging from conspiracy to defraud the U.S., making false statements, conspiracy to launder money, witness tampering, and failing to register as a foreign agent.
Jackson’s decision to exclude any testimony about alleged Russian collusion delivers a striking blow to Mueller’s team, especially because that is supposedly the main purpose of the special counsel’s investigation.
As noted by Conservative Daily Post, Manafort faces up to 80 years in prison for the Virginia case, and the second trial in D.C. against Mueller could result in Manafort spending the rest of his life in prison, barring a presidential pardon.
Many agree that Manafort had his day in court and a jury found him guilty on eight counts. But, he will also go before a jury in the D.C. case, and have the chance to prove his case.
A number of people are upset that Mueller, who was appointed over a year ago to investigate alleged collusion, is on the verge of having Manafort thrown in jail for the rest of his life over crimes that occurred more than a decade ago and have absolutely nothing to do with Trump or supposed “collusion.”
If Mueller has a rubber stamp and unlimited range, what’s to stop him from recommending charges against Trump or anyone else from decades ago? If Mueller’s job description is to investigate collusion, what does bank fraud from the mid-2000s have to do with that?
Berman limiting Mueller’s reach is a good start, many would argue, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of scaling back the special counsel’s unlimited powers and apparent ability to go after anyone he chooses.