Paul Manafort's Move to Restrain Mueller Meets Skeptical Judge

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington DC

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.

Manafort, represented by former Miller & Chevalier partner Kevin Downing, initially asked for U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia to declare Mueller's appointment invalid and set aside all actions the special counsel has taken against him. Manafort has sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that the charges against him are outside of Mueller's authority. Manafort's lawsuit relies on an arcane law called the Administrative Procedure Act, which spells out the process federal agencies must follow when writing regulations. His is also challenging Mueller's actions pertaining to Manafort, arguing that because the indictments focus on work Manafort did before the 2016 campaign, they are beyond the scope of the Russian Federation investigation.

Justice Department lawyers are expected to bring up this point on Wednesday, saying the proper way to tackle alleged defects in the indictment is by raising them in the criminal case directly.

Without an order from the court stopping Mueller's office from pursuing other charges in the future - based on an appointment order that Downing contends was unlawful - Manafort would have to "sit and wait" and keep chasing the special counsel's office wherever they chose to prosecute him next in order to challenge Mueller's appointment, Downing said.

Paul Manafort, who led Trump's Republican campaign for several months in 2016, has challenged Mueller's authority and asked a judge to dismiss an indictment charging him with crimes including money laundering conspiracy and false statements. Mueller's team alleges that Manafort and his business associate, Richard Gates, attempted to hide the money they made from that lobbying work from US officials.

Mr Mueller was appointed by Mr Rosenstein under Justice Department rules governing the hiring of special prosecutors. "Under this regime, a runaway Special Counsel is an impossibility", the prosecutors write, referring to current laws that regulate the office of a special counsel in the Justice Department.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty and none of the charges directly relate to work he performed for Trump's campaign. Later, Downing clarified that the civil lawsuit was not seeking the dismissal of Manafort's charges but rather "prospective relief", an injunction preventing future action by Mueller's team.

A newly unveiled August 2, 2017, classified memo from Rosenstein to Mueller that gives more detail, directing the special counsel to investigate Manafort's payments related to his work in Ukraine and possible collusion with Russians on the election, wasn't central to Wednesday's hearing.

Downing said it didn't undercut their case, pointing out that they were no longer pursuing the claim that Mueller exceeded his authority under the appointment order.

Prosecutors say in their court filing that given their mandate to investigate links between Trump associates and Russian Federation, it was logical and appropriate to investigate Manafort for ties to Russia-backed politicians and oligarchs.

The Justice Department is handling the defense against Manafort's civil suit, but at least a half dozen lawyers from the special counsel's office attended Wednesday's hearing, including Manafort prosecutors Andrew Weissmann, Greg Andres, and Brian Richardson.

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