Attorneys for Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s embattled former campaign manager, today filed a lawsuit in federal court against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and others that not only demands a grand jury indictment against him be set aside, but also challenges the right of a Special Counsel to investigate any crimes he discovers in the course of his probe.
On October 27, 2017, Manafort was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent and for his use of offshore bank accounts for apparent money laundering.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 3, 2018
His indictment is part of the investigation by Mueller, who was appointed by U.S. Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as Special Counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, any involvement with the Russians by the Trump campaign, and, as the suit notes, “any matters that arose or may arise directly from” that investigation.”
It is this last part that Manafort’s lawyers are attacking. They charge that Mueller is going well beyond the scope of what the Special Counsel should be allowed to do.
“That exceeds the scope of Mr. Rosenstein’s authority to appoint a special counsel as well as specific restrictions on the score of such appointments,” claims the lawsuit.
“Indeed,” continues the suit, “the Appointment Order in effect 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 from the specific matter identified as the subject of the Appointment Order.”
Mueller, a veteran prosecutor and former head of the FBI, is known for seeking out any charges he can get on his target subjects in order to give him leverage to get that person to “flip” and become a witness against people higher up who are his real target.
In this case, the suit points out Mueller and his team of experienced investigators and prosecutors have gone back as far as 2005 to probe Manafort’s past activities and his financial dealings, which include transactions, services, and deals with foreign governments and international companies valued in the millions of dollars.
“None of the charges relate to Mr. Manafort’s activities during his brief stint in 2016 as the campaign manager for the Trump presidential campaign,” says the suit.
Manafort’s lawyers claim that Mueller’s “actions pursuant to the authority the Order granted him, were arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law.”
Manafort’s legal action not only challenges Mueller’s right to pursue the investigation beyond the confines of the Russia investigation, but also the very existence of a Special Counsel.
The suit recounts the history of “independent counsels” dating back to a Congressional passage of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which included the appointment of Kenneth Starr to investigate then-President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
“The independent counsel law,” says the suit, “is now widely seen as ‘misguided’ because it creates ‘unaccountable prosecutors wielding infinite resources whenever there is a plausible allegation of a technical crime,” quoting a Washington Post article.
The law creating an independent counsel expired in 1999 when Congress declined to reauthorize it, adds the suit, showing that it was a bad idea from the start.
The suit calls the idea of an independent counsel the creation of “Frankenstein’s monster,” because it exists outside of the government authorized law, agents.
After that, the Department of Justice created the role of a Special Counsel to handle matters that may create a conflict of interest for the DOJ, which is the rule under which Mueller was appointed.
“Like the independent counsel,” demands the suit, “this Appointment Order ‘ought to be shoved firmly back into the ice from which it was initially untombed.'”
So Manafort and his lawyers are going all out to not only claim their client has been wronged by Mueller’s broad mandate, but the whole idea of a Special Counsel is wrong and should be eliminated by the courts.
That will be a big stretch but it is impossible to determine how a federal judge will rule, so in the unlikely circumstances that the suit is successful in District Court or beyond, it could throw a monkey wrench into the whole Mueller investigation, much to Trump’s delight.
So well Trump is denouncing one former campaign manager today (Steve Bannon) he may have reason to be secretly celebrating the actions of another former campaign manager (Manafort), although his lawyers are unlikely to let him say that out loud.
For the record, the Justice Department is taking Mueller’s side in this legal scuffle. In a statement today, a spokeswoman said: “The lawsuit is frivolous but the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants.”
Manafort's lawsuit should come as no surprise https://t.co/POY1dvzC4T
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) January 3, 2018
You can bet there will be lots of worried people in the White House who stand to be indicted by Mueller in the future watching to see just where this all goes.
The most important things I take away from Manafort’s frivolous civil suit against the DoJ:
-Manafort won’t be getting a deal with Mueller
-This was a PR stunt for GOPers to attack Mueller
-Manafort’s team doesn’t have a credible defense
-Manafort is definitely going to prison
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) January 3, 2018
The one sure thing seems to be that Trump’s lawyer’s frequent claim the whole investigation will end soon is probably something else that is “fake news.”