Constitutional Law

Federal judge appointed by Trump rejects challenge to Mueller's authority

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Special counsel Robert Mueller.

A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump has rejected a challenge to Robert Mueller’s authority.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich upheld the special counsel’s appointment on Monday in a challenge by a Russian firm, Concord Management and Consulting, report the National Law Journal and Politico.

Concord Management was among 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups accused of trying to influence the 2016 election.

Friedrich is the fourth federal judge to turn aside challenges to the special counsel, according to Politico. Friedrich cited the previous judges’ rulings.

Concord had contended that Mueller’s powers were so vast that he didn’t qualify under the appointments clause as an “inferior officer” who could be appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rather, Mueller should have been appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, Concord had argued.

Concord also claimed that Justice Department regulations governing the special counsel violate separation of powers principles.

The appointments clause says Congress “may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the president alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.” Other “officers of the United States” must be nominated by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Friedrich said Mueller was an inferior officer because he was removable at will and the DOJ could rewrite regulations that don’t allow the acting attorney general to revoke certain decisions by the special counsel. As a result, Friedrich said, Mueller’s appointment complies with the Constitution’s appointments clause.

She also said Concord’s separation of powers arguments “resemble Concord’s appointment clause challenge, just at a higher level of generality, and they fail for much the same reasons.”

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