Paul Manafort sues DOJ and Robert Mueller, seeks to limit special counsel authority
WASHINGTON – President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort sued the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday, arguing that Mueller exceeded his authority by indicting him on conspiracy and money laundering charges unrelated to Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
Manafort's unusual court filing also claimed that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller last May, had no authority to grant the special counsel "carte blanche to investigate and pursue criminal charges in connection with anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote" from the examination of Russia's election meddling.
Manafort, who was charged in October along with former campaign aide Rick Gates, is asking the court to effectively nullify the charges against him – and stop Mueller's investigation from ranging beyond matters directly related to Russia's interference.
"Mr. Mueller’s investigation of Mr. Manafort has extended far beyond links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump," the lawsuit states. "The investigation has focused on Mr. Manafort’s offshore business dealings that date back to as early as 2005—about a decade before the Trump presidential campaign launched—and have been known to the United States government for many years."
Instead, Manafort charges, Mueller's team "constructed an indictment" based on Manafort's failure to file required reports outlining his work for the government of Ukraine.
In a brief statement, the Justice Department called the lawsuit "frivolous"
"But the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants," the Justice statement said.
Last month, Rosenstein testified before House Judiciary Committee, saying he did not believe that Mueller had not exceeded his scope of authority.
"I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding of the scope of the investigation," Rosenstein said, before offering a stirring defense of the special counsel's credibility.
"Nobody has communicated to me the desire to remove Robert Mueller," Rosenstein said on Dec. 13. "I think it would be very difficult to find anybody better qualified for this job...I believe that, based upon his reputation, his service, his patriotism, his experience with the department and the FBI, he was an ideal choice for this task."
Manafort claimed in the lawsuit that federal prosecutors and FBI agents interviewed him in 2014 to discuss his consulting activities abroad as part of an effort to assist the government of Ukraine to recover stolen property.
More than two years later, Manafort claims that he was "charged with conduct he voluntarily disclosed."