Judge rips Manafort's lawsuit to rein in Mueller

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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 made a decision to prosecute him next in order to challenge Mueller's appointment, Downing said.

A federal judge on Wednesday appeared reluctant to rein in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a probe that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has challenged as overbroad for veering into his overseas lobbying business. A D.C. federal court indicted him past year, but more charges were filed again, and there was a second and third indictment in February. The filing included a partly redacted memo that revealed Deputy Attorney General Rodney J. Rosenstein authorized Mueller to pursue allegations that Manafort colluded with Russian Federation in 2016.

Manafort has argued in court filings that the Special Counsel lacks the authority to prosecute the case. An amended complaint is expected.

During a 90-minute hearing in Washington, Manafort's defense team retreated from requests that the court void Mueller's appointment and dismiss criminal charges already brought in the District and Virginia against President Donald Trump's former presidential campaign chairman. In a report unclassified in January 2017, USA intelligence agencies said the Kremlin wanted to help Trump. Manafort's lawyers have alleged in court documents that Mueller's probe has now become an "unbounded exercise of prosecutorial authority [that] is wholly incompatible with our constitutional tradition".

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The special counsel's office was able to investigate two avenues of alleged crimes Manafort committed - working with Russians to influence the election in violation of USA law, and for crimes that arose from payments Manafort received from former Ukrainian politicians.

Paul Manafort, right, leaves the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, with his attorney, Kevin Downing, left, in November 2017. (There's an additional criminal case against Manafort pending in Virginia).

The filing Monday night crystallizes the extent to which Rosenstein, who has come under fire by President Donald Trump and others, has backed the investigation's actions.

They also noted that Rosenstein has said publicly that he is supervising the investigation closely and that he does not believe Mueller has exceeded his authority.

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The Justice Department didn't file that memo in Manafort's civil case, but Jackson asked Downing and the Justice Department about its significance on Wednesday.

This scope, according to the now-public memo, includes looking at whether Manafort colluded with Russian government officials in its effort to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election, along with the allegations contained in the existing indictments against him concerning crimes that arose from payments he received for the work he did on behalf of the Ukrainian government. The indictments charge Manafort with earning tens of millions of dollars in Ukraine, laundering much of that money, failing to register as a foreign agent and cheating on his taxes. "And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort's Ukrainian consulting activities".

Several of the prosecutors who've worked on Manafort's criminal case for Mueller's office, including lead prosecutor Andrew Weissmann and appellate specialist Michael Dreeben, watched the hearing.

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