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05 April 2018, 01:22 | Simon Arnold
Mueller authorized by DOJ to investigate alleged Manafort collusion with Russian government
DOJ attorney Daniel Schwei said that if Manafort could use the APA to challenge the appointment order, it would open the door to APA lawsuits challenging agencies any time they hire new employees for specific tasks - even before those employees take any actions.
A federal judge on Wednesday appeared skeptical of a civil lawsuit filed by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort alleging that the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller exceeded their authority in prosecuting him as part of the sprawling Russian Federation probe.
He did not elaborate on what charges he believed could be pressed against his client.
Manafort isn't accused of any criminal activity related to his work on Trump's campaign. A D.C. federal court indicted him a year ago, but more charges were filed again, and there was a second and third indictment in February. In addition to authorizing the Russian Federation collusion investigation of Manafort, Rosenstein also specifically authorized Mueller to investigate any crimes related to payments Manafort received from the Ukrainian government during the tenure of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Rod Rosenstein amended the original authority given to Robert Mueller for the Russia investigation to explicitly include any potential collusion between Paul Manafort and the Russians. An amended complaint is expected.
Mueller is investigating potential collusion between Trump's campaign and Russian Federation as well as whether the president has unlawfully tried to obstruct the probe. In a report unclassified in January 2017, US intelligence agencies said the Kremlin wanted to help Trump.
None of the charges Manafort faces alleges coordination with the Kremlin, and Manafort's attorneys had used that point to argue that Mueller had exceeded his authority by bringing charges against him accusing him of various financial crimes and acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of Ukrainian interests.
Mueller's investigatory mission "would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs".
Prosecutors argued that their investigation would only "naturally follow the money trail from Manafort's Ukrainian consulting activities", work that resulted in the criminal charges.
Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson grilled Manafort attorney Kevin Downing for 50 minutes in open court over whether Manafort had the ability to bring the civil lawsuit against the Justice Department.
"Nobody challenges prosecutions under the APA", Jackson said while questioning Downing.
The memo, which had not previously been released publicly and remains redacted in parts, said Mueller was empowered to investigate allegations that Manafort "committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials" to interfere with the presidential election.
Downing said Manafort's defense had "major issues" with the added authorization, saying that it came after a search warrant had already been executed on Manafort's home. Several other individuals charged in Mueller's investigation have pleaded guilty and made agreements to cooperate.
Manafort's latest challenge follows disclosure by the government Tuesday of an August 2, 2017, memo in which Rosenstein confirmed that the allegations against Manafort fall within the scope of Mueller's investigation and the May appointment order. Downing turned around to look at Manafort, then said forcefully, "Never". "Because investigation of those matters was authorized, so was prosecution".
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