14:09, June 27 255 0 abajournal.com

2018-06-27 14:09:06
A second judge refuses to toss Manafort charges, yet criticizes ‘distasteful’ prosecution tactic

A federal judge in Virginia criticized special counsel appointments but refused Tuesday to dismiss charges of bank fraud, tax evasion and failure to report foreign bank accounts against Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of Alexandria refused to dismiss a superseding indictment, but said his conclusion “should not be read as approval of the practice of appointing special counsel to prosecute cases of alleged high-level misconduct.” The National Law Journal, Courthouse News Service and the Washington Post have stories.

Ellis said the appointment of special counsel has the potential to disrupt the Constitution’s system of checks and balances “and to inject a level of toxic partisanship into investigation of matters of public importance.”

“Although this case will continue,” Ellis said, “those involved should be sensitive to the danger unleashed when political disagreements are transformed into partisan prosecutions.”

Ellis added in a footnote that “even a blind person can see the true target of the special counsel’s investigation is President Trump” rather than Manafort.

“Specifically, the charges against defendant are intended to induce defendant to cooperate with the special counsel by providing evidence against the president or other members of the campaign. Although these kinds of high-pressure prosecutorial tactics are neither uncommon nor illegal, they are distasteful.”

Manafort was charged in connection with consulting work he did for a former president of Ukraine who was “strongly pro-Russian,” Ellis said.

Ellis said the prosecution falls within a valid grant of jurisdiction in a May 2017 order appointing the special counsel and authorizing him to investigate links between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. A “scope memorandum” issued last August also makes clear the special counsel was authorized to investigate Manafort’s payments from the Ukrainian government, Ellis said.

A judge hearing a different case against Manafort, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, refused last month to dismiss charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent.