Sat, 20 Oct 2018

Manafort alleges DOJ violated the law in appointing Mueller

By Sheetal Sukhija, Georgia State News
04 Jan 2018, 10:38 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - After being indicted on money laundering and other charges, the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has filed a lawsuit challenging the broad authority of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort filed the suit on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, where he and another former Trump campaign aide are charged and alleged the Justice Department violated the law in appointing Mueller.

The lawsuit also challenges Mueller's decision to charge Manafort with alleged crimes that they say have nothing to do with the 2016 campaign, but relate to lucrative lobbying work Manafort and his deputy did for a former Russia-friendly government in Ukraine. 

The lawsuit claims that the work in question ended in 2014. 

Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates have denied the allegations in the charges.

According to experts, the legal action represents a new angle in a broader effort by supporters of the President to push back on Mueller, instead of firing him. 

Currently, some Republicans have even publicly called for Mueller's probe to be shut down. 

According to reports, Manafort's attorneys have echoed the President's criticism that Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is pursuing crimes that never happened.

In the lawsuit, Manafort alleges that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller have unlawfully exceeded the authorities allowed under the law governing special counsel appointments. 

Further, the lawsuit contends that the order Rosenstein signed to appoint Mueller "exceeds the scope of Mr. Rosenstein's authority to appoint special counsel as well as specific restrictions on the scope of such appointments."

Responding to the lawsuit, a DOJ spokesperson said, "The lawsuit is frivolous but the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants."

Reports revealed that the lawsuit also includes new information on the scope of Mueller's probe.

It alleges that in August, the Mueller prosecutors issued more than 100 subpoenas related to Manafort.

According to the lawsuit, some of those subpoenas seek records from as early as 2005. 

The complaint claims that in August, a prosecutor from Mueller's office told Manafort that he would be prosecuted for alleged crimes dating back to 2010. 

The complaint added that when Manafort's lawyers asked Rosenstein in fall 2017 for clarification on whether Mueller's team had the go-ahead to broaden the investigation into earlier years, they heard nothing back. 

Manafort's indictment includes actions he took from 2006 to 2014.

According to prosecutors, in previous court filings, prosecutors have said that they collected 400,000 documents related to Manafort and Gates' case, and identified 2,000 of those documents as especially relevant.

The lawsuit partly focusses on a part of the Rosenstein order that claims that Mueller may investigate "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." 

On the other hand, the Manafort lawyers have said that that goes beyond what the law allows Rosenstein to empower Mueller to do.

The lawsuit said that 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.”

Manafort alleges in his lawsuit that even if Rosenstein's order is lawful, Mueller has exceeded his authority.

It also said that in 2014 Manafort met with the Justice Department and the FBI in the government's investigation of his client, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, ousted amid street protests that year. 

The Manafort suit claims the government told Manafort he was a witness in the investigation. 

The lawsuit said that Mueller has now charged Manafort with conduct he had already voluntarily disclosed.

The complaint said that Manafort "voluntarily met with DOJ prosecutors and FBI agents to discuss his offshore political consulting activities" in July 2014. 

At that time, the Justice Department told him they were working with Ukraine to locate stolen assets and focused on a former Ukrainian president, according to the complaint.

The complaint said, "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.”

Manafort's lawsuit noted that during his time working for the Ukrainian government he met regularly with the U.S. ambassador in Kiev.

He suggested that the U.S. government knew what he was doing at the time.

Further, Manafort’s lawsuit also cites the July FBI raid on Manafort's home, in which the special counsel team said it was seeking records of possible financial crimes dating to January 2006 - a decade before the presidential campaign Mueller is investigating.

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