In what is apparently a last-ditch effort to delay his trial, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has filed suit against the Justice Department, claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller lacks the authority to conduct a probe into whether Manafort and others conspired with Russian officials to undermine the 2016 Presidential election.
According to documents filed Wednesday in US District Court in Washington DC., Manafort claims that Mueller overstepped his bounds when he investigated, and subsequently indicted, Manafort for failing to submit a file to the US government naming himself an official lobbyist of a foreign government. Manafort's attorneys say that Mueller was supposed to focus his efforts on investigating whether the Russians had interfered in the US election, not whether Manafort had filed proper paperwork with a Federal body.
By the time the elections in question rolled around, Manafort alleges, he'd completed his work on behalf of a Putin-backed Ukrainian government official, and that all of Manafort's overseas dealings ended in 2014 — meaning they'd have no impact on the 2016 contest.
The suit also takes aim at deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who authorized Mueller's probe to begin with, claiming that Rosenstein exceeded his authority "to appoint special counsel as well as specific restrictions on the scope of such appointments."
The DOJ called the lawsuit "frivolous" but the filings themselves are very intriguing. According to Manafort and his attorneys, Mueller filed "more than 100 subpoenas related to Manafort" during the summer of 2017, seeking information as far back as 2005, some of which related to a previous, concluded FBI investigation.
But Rosenstein authorized Mueller to take any actions necessary to get the bottom of whether Manafort or anyone else had an improper relationship with the Russian government and its allies. That directive, Manafort's lawyers say, amounts to an unconstitutional "carte blanche" authorizing activities far beyond the originally intended scope of the investigation.
Manafort and his associates are facing 12 Federal counts, including money laundering and "failure to file Federal disclosures," CNN reports, but all related to actions that took place well before Donald Trump had even announced his Presidential exploratory committee in 2015.