Mueller authorized by DOJ to investigate alleged Manafort collusion with Russian government

Marsha Scott
April 5, 2018

It alleges portions of Rosenstein's order laying out Mueller's investigative mandate violate Justice Department rules.

Mueller's team in a filing on Monday rebutted Manafort and asked the court to dismiss his lawsuit, saying it "lacks merit". He said Mueller, who was assigned to investigate potential coordination between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, overstepped his bounds by charging him for conduct that occurred years before the 2016 presidential election. His is also challenging Mueller's actions pertaining to Manafort, arguing that because the indictments focus on work Manafort did before the 2016 campaign, they are beyond the scope of the Russian Federation investigation.

"I don't really understand what is left of your case", U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said to Kevin Downing, Manafort's attorney, after peppering him with a lengthy series of questions.

The Justice Department, which was represented by career attorneys (though members of Mueller's team were present in the courtroom), argued that a civil lawsuit is not the appropriate place to bring issues with Mueller's investigation that instead could be brought in the criminal cases against Manafort.

The memorandum, signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, stated that it was within the special counsel's scope to investigate payments Manafort received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych. "Each step the Special Counsel has taken against Mr. Manafort has been without lawful authority", Manafort's lawyers wrote in mid-March.

The judge noted that the Justice Department regulations Manafort cited explicitly said that they did not create rights that could be enforced in a civil lawsuit.

Manafort faces two trials in Washington and Virginia courts, the first of which is scheduled for July.

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Although Manafort's lawsuit originally asked the judge to invalidate the entire appointment order, Downing clarified that they were now only asking the judge to set aside the section referring to "any matters" that came out of the investigation. At Wednesday's hearing, Downing also said that he was no longer pursuing the second count - focused on Mueller himself - and that the lawsuit was just challenging the appointment order.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty and none of the charges directly relate to work he performed for Trump's campaign.

Paul Manafort, who led Trump's Republican campaign for several months in 2016, has challenged Mueller's authority and asked a judge to dismiss an indictment charging him with crimes including money laundering conspiracy and false statements.

Berman Jackson didn't decide on the lawsuit on Wednesday, and will issue an opinion later.

Schwei argued that regardless of Manafort's efforts to narrow the focus of his civil lawsuit, it would "plainly interfere" with the ongoing prosecutions. Downing turned around to look at Manafort, then said forcefully, "Never".

The Justice Department is handling the defense against Manafort's civil suit, but at least a half dozen lawyers from the special counsel's office attended Wednesday's hearing, including Manafort prosecutors Andrew Weissmann, Greg Andres, and Brian Richardson.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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