President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is suing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Fox News reports that Manafort’s lawsuit claims the investigation into his business dealings exceeds the scope of the Special Counsel into Russian influence on the 2016 election:
“The investigation of Mr. Manafort is completely unmoored from the special counsel’s original jurisdiction to investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.’”
In October, Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment that included allegations of money laundering and making false statements in connection with their work in Ukraine.
The complaint continued, “Those alleged dealings had no connection whatsoever to the 2016 presidential election or even to Donald Trump.” Manafort’s legal team is asking the court “to hold those actions unlawful and set them aside.”
CNN has a bit more including early reaction to the lawsuit from an unnamed DOJ source:
A DOJ spokesperson responded with a statement, saying: “The lawsuit is frivolous but the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants.”
The lawsuit also includes new information on the scope of Mueller’s probe: In August, the Mueller prosecutors issued more than 100 subpoenas related to Manafort, the lawsuit alleges…
The lawsuit’s focus is on a part of the Rosenstein order that says that Mueller may investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” The Manafort lawyers say that goes beyond what the law allows Rosenstein to empower Mueller to do.
The Rosenstein order gives Mueller “carte blanche to investigate and pursue criminal charges in connection with anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote from the specific matter identified as the subject of the appointment order,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit is here. In the background section, the suit argues that Congress allowed the authorization for an Independent Prosecutor to lapse but that Mueller is behaving more like an Independent Prosecutor than a Special Prosecutor whose purview is more limited. Specifically, Manafort claims the charges against him were based on a prior investigatin that had nothing to do with the 2016 election:
On July 30, 2014, Mr. Manafort voluntarily met with DOJ prosecutors and FBI agents to discuss his offshore political consulting activities. During the interview, Mr. Manafort
provided a detailed explanation of his activities in Ukraine, including his frequent contact with a number of previous U.S. Ambassadors in Kiev and his efforts to further U.S. objectives in Ukraine on their behalf. He further discussed his offshore banking activity in Cyprus. Throughout the process, DOJ maintained that they were assisting the Ukrainian government in
locating stolen assets. The investigation focused on the activities of a former Ukraine President and was closed soon after Mr. Manafort’s interview.
The Office of the Special Counsel charged Mr. Manafort with the very conduct he voluntarily disclosed to DOJ almost three years prior to the appointment of Mr. Mueller as
Special Counsel. The charged conduct does not relate to the specific matter designated in the Appointment Order, nor did it arise from the Special Counsel’s investigation. The Special
Counsel’s investigation and indictment resulted from a violation of numerous DOJ policies and procedures and otherwise far exceeds any lawful authority to investigate links between
individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Is this frivolous or are there actually supposed to be some limits to Mueller’s investigation? Politico cites at least one expert who thinks the lawsuit is likely to benefit Mueller:
Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, who called the suit a “silly” and “desperate” effort, said the move could backfire by giving Mueller a platform to mount a robust public defense of his work.
“This is the best thing that could happen for Robert Mueller. There have been all these people out there saying he’s politically biased and he’s exceeding his authority, and he’s stayed honorably silent,” Katyal said. “Now, he’s going to have a federal court rule on those questions. There’s nothing better than that.”
Politico’s story adds that the civil lawsuit is likely to be turned over to the same Obama-appointed judge currently handling the criminal case. A trial could take place as soon as spring.