WASHINGTON DC, USA – Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort sued special prosecutor Robert Mueller and the Justice Department Wednesday, January 3, for allegedly overstepping their mandates, in a potentially significant challenge to the Russia probe that threatens the US president.
Two months after his arrest for tax evasion and money laundering, Manafort charged that the department and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave Mueller excessively broad authority in his investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
He also alleged that Mueller strayed from a focus on alleged collusion in pursuing charges against Manafort related to his work for former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych years before the election campaign.
“The investigation of Mr. Manafort is completely unmoored from the special counsel’s original jurisdiction to investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,'” the lawsuit said.
Manafort’s dealings with Russia-backed Yanukovych, all before 2014, “had no connection whatsoever to the 2016 presidential election or even to Donald Trump,” it said.
A long-time Washington political consultant, he was recruited to head Trump’s presidential campaign in June 2016 but stepped down two months later after allegations surfaced from Kiev that he had been paid more than $12 million by Yanukovych’s party.
On October 30 he and former aide Rick Gates were charged with 12 counts of money laundering, tax evasion, and other related crimes related to the money they earned advising Yanukovych.
Manafort, 68, argued that he had already been interviewed by the FBI in 2014 about his Ukraine activities, which date back to the mid-2000s, further placing them outside the contours of Mueller’s investigation.
Mueller, a former FBI director, was named by Rosenstein to head up an independent investigation of possible links between Russian activities and the Trump campaign last May.
The appointment order gave him the power to examine “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” into possible collusion.
Manafort argues that such a broad brief is not authorized under Justice Department rules.
If Manafort’s suit is upheld, it could constrain Mueller’s ability to examine, for example, Trump’s finances, including business deals with Russian property investors, which have drawn his attention according to recent media reports. – Rappler.com