A former Trump campaign chairman indicted on money laundering charges by special counsel Robert Mueller as a part of his probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election is suing the Justice Department and Mr Mueller, saying that the special counsel didn't have the authority to charge him.
The lawsuit, brought by Paul Manafort, represents the latest effort by allies of President Donald Trump to stem the special counsel’s investigation. That backlash has included pressure from some congressional Republicans, who have called publicly on the Justice Department to shutter the Mueller probe.
Mr Manafort, who was indicted last year on the charges alongside his deputy Rick Gates, filed the suit Wednesday in US District Court in Washington, challenging Mr Mueller’s decision to charge him for the alleged crimes, saying that they had nothing to do with the 2016 campaign. Both Mr Manafort and Mr Gates have plead not guilty to the charges related to money laundering and failing to file federal financial disclosures.
Mr Manafort and his lawyers say the accusations stemmed from lobbying work that he and his deputy did for a formerly pro-Russia Ukrainian source, long before the 2016 campaign. That lobbying work ended in 2014, the suit says, before Mr Trump even announced his bid for the US presidency.
The lawsuit alleges that Mr Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein exceeded their authority in bringing forth those charges, because the law that dictates parameters for special counsel appointments do not allow far-reaching investigations of those kind. The order to appoint the counsel — which Mr Rosenstein signed after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself — goes beyond the deputy attorney general’s authority, the lawsuit says.
Specifically, the lawsuit focuses on the terms in the order that say Mr Mueller can investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” into the 2016 meddling.
Mr Rosenstein’s order gives 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 specific matter identified as the subject of the appointment order,” the lawsuit reads.