Judge rips Manafort's lawsuit to rein in Mueller

by Garry Watts April 5, 2018, 0:36
Judge rips Manafort's lawsuit to rein in Mueller

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

During arguments Wednesday about whether Manafort's lawsuit challenging special counsel Robert Mueller's appointment could go forward, Manafort's lawyer said the case wasn't about getting the existing indictments tossed out - it was about stopping future prosecutions against Manafort by the special counsel's office.

Manafort, who performed lobbying work for a pro-Russian former Ukrainian president before serving as Mr Trump's campaign chairman in the 2016 USA election, is facing an array of charges in two indictments brought by Mr Mueller in federal courts in Washington and Alexandria, Virginia.

The judge, Amy Berman Jackson, is also presiding over the criminal case brought by Mueller against Manafort in federal court in Washington, D.C.

As a general matter, defendants like Manafort in criminal cases are not usually able to use civil litigation to try to challenge criminal charges.

Justice Department attorney Daniel Schwei, who is not a part of Mueller's special counsel team, said Manafort should raise his challenges to Mueller in the criminal cases playing out in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and in the Eastern District of Virginia. Manafort claims that Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinRosenstein taps longtime prosecutor as deputy Lawyer gets jail time in first sentence of Mueller probe DOJ authorized Mueller to investigate allegations Manafort colluded with Russia MORE's order previous year appointing Mueller violated Justice Department policies. Manafort is separately pursuing motions to dismiss the indictments returned by federal grand juries in Washington and Virginia, raising similar arguments about the validity of Mueller's appointment. "Under this regime, a runaway Special Counsel is an impossibility", the prosecutors write, referring to current laws that regulate the office of a special counsel in the Justice Department.

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Manafort is one of a number of people already charged in Mr Mueller's probe, which has hung over Mr Trump's presidency.

A newly unveiled August 2, 2017, classified memo from Rosenstein to Mueller that gives more detail, directing the special counsel to investigate Manafort's payments related to his work in Ukraine and possible collusion with Russians on the election, wasn't central to Wednesday's hearing. Manafort is facing charges of tax fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and failing to disclose foreign lobbying related to his work in Ukraine.

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

Berman Jackson didn't decide on the lawsuit on Wednesday, and will issue an opinion later. Manafort's claims, he said, "can and will be adjudicated in those other cases". Later, Downing clarified that the civil lawsuit was not seeking the dismissal of Manafort's charges but rather "prospective relief", an injunction preventing future action by Mueller's team.

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.

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