Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Justice Department, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, claiming that Mueller’s investigation had overstepped its authority.
Manafort and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates are currently faced charges of money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose foreign lobbying as a part of Mueller’s probe. They have pleaded not guilty.
“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,'” Manafort’s lawsuit said, quoting the appointment order Rosenstein issued for Mueller.
“It has instead focused on unrelated, decade-old business dealings—specifically, Ukraine political campaign consulting activities of Mr. Manafort,” Manafort’s lawsuit said.
The case was filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C. and assigned to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
“The lawsuit is frivolous but the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants,” a Justice Department spokesperson told TPM.
Manafort alleged that the appointment order itself was a violation of Administrative Procedure Act, and that it was “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law.”
“Even if that grant of authority were lawful, Mr. Mueller’s investigation and the
resulting indictment exceed it,” the lawsuit continued.
In addition to the charges Mueller brought against Gates and Manafort, the special counsel has secured guilty pleas from former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, who both admitted to lying to the FBI about their Russian contacts.
Manafort, in his lawsuit, argued that the indictment against him “does not charge any links between Mr.Manafort and the Russian government.”
Instead, Manafort alleged, Mueller’s indictment focuses on a lobbying campaign for a Ukraine political party that ended in 2014, and on financial matters and taxing filings that also ended in 2014.
“Those alleged dealings had no connection whatsoever to the 2016 presidential
election or even to Donald Trump,” the lawsuit argued.
In the lawsuit, Manafort claimed he met with DOJ prosecutors and the FBI on July 30, 2014 to discuss his Ukrainian lobbying work. During the interview, the DOJ “maintained that they were assisting the Ukrainian government in locating stolen assets,” Manafort said, adding that the investigation was closed soon after the 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 complaint said.
The lawsuit also revealed that Manafort’s attorneys in September had sent a letter to Rosenstein seeking confirmation that he had authorized Mueller to investigate alleged financial crimes dating back to well before the 2016 campaign.
“Mr. Rosenstein has not responded; nor has anyone else from his office,” the complaint said.
Manafort is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, asking for the court to declare Mueller’s appointment order to be not in accordance with the law and to set aside the actions Mueller has already taken against Manafort as part of the probe. It also seeks an order declaring “that Mr. Mueller lacks authority to investigate business dealings not arising from the original jurisdiction set out in the Appointment Order.”
Read the complaint below:
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- -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism