Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Wednesday sued the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and special counsel Robert Mueller for overstepping their authorities to bring charges against him that are unrelated to the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.
According to the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Manafort alleged that Rosenstein exceeded the scope of his “authority” to appoint Mueller, and Mueller’s investigation has overstepped his authority with his investigation.
"The actions of DOJ and Mr. Rosenstein in issuing the Appointment Order, and Mr. Mueller's actions pursuant to the authority the Order granted him, were arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the May order Rosenstein signed to appoint Mueller "exceeds the scope of Mr. Rosenstein's authority to appoint special counsel as well as specific restrictions on the scope of such appointments."
That order said Mueller may investigate "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation," but Manafort said that's something Rosenstein was not legally allowed to empower Mueller to do.
Because of the order, Mueller’s investigation of Manafort “has extended far beyond ‘links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” the lawsuit alleged.
Manafort was indicted by Mueller in October on charges stemming from his consulting work for former Russia-friendly government in Ukraine.
The lawsuit argued that the crimes he has been charged with are not related to the 2016 campaign, and that the lobbying work ended in 2014.
“The indictment does not charge any links between Mr. Manafort and the Russian government,” the lawsuit said. “Instead, the Special Counsel has constructed an indictment that, at its essence, concerns failing to file certain informational reports of offshore bank accounts and failing to register as a foreign agent. None of the charges relate to Mr. Manafort’s activities during his brief stint in 2016 as the campaign manager for the Trump presidential campaign.”
Manafort pleaded not guilty to all 12 charges brought against him on October 27, 2017: Engaging in a conspiracy against the United States, engaging in a conspiracy to launder money, failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, making false and misleading statements in documents filed and submitted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and making other false statements.
A spokesperson for Mueller declined to comment. A Justice Department spokesperson told the Washington Examiner: "The lawsuit is frivolous but the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants."
A spokesman for Manafort also declined to comment, and Manafort’s lawyer has not responded to a request for comment.
Manafort is scheduled to appear again before U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on January 16. The judge recently approved Manafort's request to be released from house arrest on a $10 million bail.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in mid-December, Rosenstein said he has seen “no good cause” to fire Mueller.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, and he is the only administration official who can remove him from the position.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, asked Rosenstein at last month's hearing if Mueller is “casting too wide of a net” with his probe. Rosenstein replied by saying he has agreed to expand the investigation, and that he is aware of what Mueller is doing.
"There are a lot of media stories speculating about what the special counsel may or may not be doing," Rosenstein said. "I know what Mueller is doing. I'm appropriately exercising my oversight responsibilities. So I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding about the scope of his investigation."