Memo shows Mueller explicitly tasked with Manafort-Russia collusion claims

Deputy general Rod Rosenstein also authorized investigation of former Trump campaign chairs financial dealings in Ukraine

The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, explicitly authorized special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate allegations that the former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort colluded with the Russian government, according to national courts filing attained late on Monday night.

Mueller’s prosecutors included that detail in a memo defending the scope of their investigation, which so far has resulted in criminal charges against 19 people and three Russian companies.

Manafort, who led the Trump campaign for several months in 2016, is one of four aides charged in the Mueller investigation. Former national security consultant Michael Flynn, Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, and the foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos have entered plea deals.

Manafort has challenged Mueller’s authority and asked a magistrate to reject an indictment charging him with crimes including fund laundering conspiracy and false statements.

He told Mueller, who was assigned to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, overstepped his binds by charging him for conduct that occurred years before the 2016 election.

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Who is Paul Manafort?

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Paul Manafort served for five months as chairman of the Trump campaign, resigning in August 2016 after past payments he had received for work in the former Soviet bloc came to light. Examiners are believed to be scrutinizing Manafort’s contacts with Russians during the campaign, including an offer by Manafort to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in July 2016 to provide “private briefings” on the US presidential race.

Manafort, 68, was charged on 30 October with multiple federal misdemeanours unconnected with his campaign obligations. The charges included money laundering, tax fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors accuse Manafort of using shell companies and taxation havens to launder tens of millions of dollars in pays from Kremlin-backed political parties in Ukraine and other employers.

Manafort pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Manafort brought deep political experience to the Trump campaign. He had helped incumbent president Gerald Ford beat back a challenge for the nomination by Ronald Reagan at the 1976 Republican national convention and later built a lobbying business in Washington that specialised in unsavory clients around the world. Read more about Manafort’s career here.

Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/ AFP

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But in their new filing, attorneys revealed that Rosenstein- who appointed Mueller after the prosecutor general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself, over contacts with Russians during the electoral campaign- wrote a memoranda last August that outlined the scope of Mueller’s appointment.

The memo, which remains redacted in parts, said that Mueller was empowered to investigate allegations that Manafort” committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials” to interfere with the presidential election.

None of the charges Manafort faces alleges coordination with the Kremlin, and Manafort’s lawyers had used that point to argue that Mueller surpassed his authority by accusing him of financial crimes and acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of Ukrainian interests.

But Monday’s filing appears to undercut that debate. In addition to approving the Russia collusion investigation of Manafort, Rosenstein also authorized Mueller to investigate any crimes related to payments Manafort received from the Ukrainian government under former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The description largely outlines the charges against Manafort, which largely relate to allegations he conspired to launder tens of millions of dollars received from Ukrainian political consulting including his is currently working on Yanukovych’s behalf. Manafort has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing related to Russian election interference.

Prosecutors say in their court filing that given their mandate to analyse links between Trump associates and Russia, it was appropriate to investigate Manafort for ties to Russia-backed politicians and oligarchs.

” It would also naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications ,” they wrote.” And attorneys would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities .”

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