Criminal Justice

Manafort sues DOJ and special counsel who indicted him, says Mueller was given improper authority

  • Print

Paul Manafort at 2016 Republican National Convention.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort at 2016 Republican National Convention. Mark Reinstein,

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort claims in a lawsuit that the order appointing special counsel Robert Mueller improperly gave Mueller the power to investigate matters that are “unmoored” to an investigation of links between the Russian government and the presidential campaign.

According to the suit filed on Wednesday, an improper grant of authority resulted in the wrongful indictment of Manafort on money laundering charges. Defendants are special counsel Robert Mueller, the U.S. Justice Department and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.

The Hill, the New York Times, (sub. req.), BuzzFeed News and Politico covered the suit (PDF), filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Justice Department regulations don’t allow special counsel investigations to go beyond the scope of an assigned matter absent a determination by the attorney general, the suit says. Rosenstein defied those jurisdictional limits when he authorized Mueller to investigate and prosecute “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” of Russian influence, the suit alleges.

The appointment order “purports to grant Mr. Mueller carte blanche to investigate and pursue criminal charges in connection with anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote,” the suit says.

Manafort and co-defendant Rick Gates are accused of generating tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of work for the former president of Ukraine, then laundering the money through corporations, partnerships and bank accounts. The indictment says the money laundering began in about 2006 and lasted through at least 2016.

The suit claims Rosenstein acted beyond his authority in giving the special counsel such a broad grant of jurisdiction, and any actions taken pursuant to that authority must be set aside. Even if the appointment order is lawful, Manafort’s indictment ignored the jurisdictional boundaries, according to the suit.

The suit asks for a judgment setting aside the order appointing Mueller, and an order setting aside all actions taken against Manafort as a result of the wrongful appointment order. The suit also says Mueller should be enjoined from investigating any conduct by Manafort “that is unrelated to and predates his involvement with the Trump campaign.”

A Justice Department spokesperson gave this statement to BuzzFeed and Politico: “The lawsuit is frivolous but the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.