Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, sued the Department of Justice; the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein; and the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Wednesday over the investigation into possible connections between Mr. Trump's associates and Russian election interference.
But while Manafort is correct that the charges against him are largely unrelated to the Trump-Russia investigation, that doesn't mean Mueller isn't allowed to investigate and prosecute him for those things.
In his complaint, Manafort alleges that Mueller's investigation "diverged from its focus on alleged collusion between the Russian government and President Trump's campaign".
The lawsuit asks a judge to set aside all actions brought against Manafort by the special counsel's office and to issue an order narrowing the scope of Mueller's investigation to only matters explicitly laid out in the appointment order.
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Manafort's lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment, and a spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment. As a constitutional matter, Manafort was charged with crimes not by Mueller or his team, but by the executive branch of the United States: that is, by President Donald Trump, acting through the Department of Justice.
Tough luck, Manafort. For better or for worse, one of the features of criminal prosecutions is that anything investigators uncover during the course of their work is fair game for further investigation. "Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein asked to meet with the speaker and we accommodated the request", Ryan's office told Fox News, adding that FBI Director Christopher Wray meant to meet with Ryan as well.
The special counsel also charged Manafort with conduct he says he voluntarily disclosed to U.S. authorities in 2014, the suit claims. Already, Mueller has obtained guilty pleas from Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn and from a former member of Trump's foreign policy advisory team, George Papadopoulos.
His request to nullify Mueller's actions related to Manafort was unusual because it came as a civil lawsuit rather than a motion to dismiss the criminal case.
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In October, a federal grand jury approved an indictment against Manafort and his associate Rick Gates, marking the first charges to come out of the probe into possible collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian Federation.
That theory echoes comments made by Trump, who has said that Mueller can not investigate his family's personal finances. Both pleaded not guilty.
The short of it: Rosenstein's appointing order is overbroad and thus illegal because it gives Mueller the power to go on a fishing expedition against anything and anybody he wants.
It also says that Manafort met in 2014 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. Its reason for that claim centers on the order saying that Mueller may investigate "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation".
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He said that during the 2014 interview, he discussed in detail his activities in Ukraine, his relationships with diplomats in Kyiv, and his offshore banking in Cyprus. He told a congressional committee last month that he had signed off on Mueller's investigative moves, including what fell within his authorized scope. Manafort's case appears to be "an uphill battle that's unlikely to succeed", said Solomon Wisenberg, a Washington defence lawyer who worked under Whitewater probe Independent Counsel Ken Starr during the Clinton administration.