Robert Mueller is over-reaching his authority, Paul Manafort and Russian company claim
Trump’s former campaign chairman and a Russian business both claim the special counsel cannot prosecute them for crimes unrelated to his election collusion investigation
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election drew fire from two of his targets on Monday, when Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and a Russian company accused of helping fund a propaganda operation each filed motions challenging Mueller’s authority to prosecute them.
Lawyers for Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chief, filed court papers appealing US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s dismissal of a civil suit Manafort brought earlier this year contending that Mueller could not prosecute him for crimes that were not related to the election investigation.
They also say they want a federal appeal court to review Jackson’s order on June 15 to jail Manafort while he awaits trial on several felony charges.
Separately, Concord Management and Consulting, a company prosecutors say is controlled by a businessman dubbed by Russian media as “Putin’s chef”, argued in a filing before District Judge Dabney Friedrich that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein violated the Appointments Clause of the US Constitution when he hired Mueller in May 2017.
As a result, the filing contends, Mueller was unlawfully appointed and lacks prosecutorial authority.
Manafort initially brought the civil case seeking to have Jackson dismiss all charges against him, arguing that Mueller had exceeded his authority by bringing criminal charges unrelated to Russian election interference.
Manafort’s lawyers later dropped the bulk of their challenge. Instead, they asked Jackson to nullify a paragraph in Mueller’s appointment order and issue an order protecting Manafort from future prosecutions by Mueller.
In a 24-page order, Jackson dismissed that lawsuit, saying “a civil case is not the appropriate vehicle for taking issue with what a prosecutor has done in the past or where he might be headed in the future”.
Manafort filed a similar motion in his criminal case. But it was also dismissed by Jackson, who ruled that Mueller was within his authority to bring the case.
Jackson revoked Manafort’s house arrest earlier this month citing a newly unsealed indictment accusing him and a long-time associate of tampering with witnesses in the case.
The ruling sent Manafort, 69, to a Virginia jail while he faces two trials over the next few months on charges including tax evasion, bank fraud and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.
In the other court case, Concord is one of three entities, along with 13 Russian individuals, indicted by Mueller’s office in February in an alleged criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper with the US race, boost Trump and disparage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The indictment said Concord is controlled by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who US officials have said has extensive ties to Russia’s military and political establishment.
Concord is the only defendant in the case to have formally responded to the charges in federal court.
Under the Constitution’s Appointments Clause, principal officers such as cabinet secretaries are appointed by the president and confirmed by the United States Senate while “inferior officers” may be appointed by courts or department heads if permitted by Congress.
Concord’s lawyers say that Mueller qualifies as an principal officer under the clause because of his vast prosecutorial authority.