Special counsel Robert Mueller defended his authority to prosecute Donald Trump’s former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and argued in court papers that Manafort improperly seeks to use a civil lawsuit to secure dismissal of his money-laundering indictment.
Mueller’s prosecutors urged a judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit attacking the Oct. 27 indictment charging that Manafort did not register as an agent of the Ukrainian government and laundered millions of dollars before he worked on Trump’s presidential campaign.
“The special counsel’s investigation and prosecutions are entirely lawful,” prosecutors argued in a motion filed late Friday. “If Manafort believes the special counsel lacks authority to prosecute him, he is free to raise that objection in his criminal action by filing a motion to dismiss the indictment.”
Manafort filed the civil lawsuit Jan. 3 after weeks of mounting assaults by many Republican lawmakers and conservative media of Mueller and members of his team, attacking them as unfair and biased. The filing by Mueller’s prosecutors came after the release of a memo by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee alleging bias by FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the investigation into Pres. Trump and Russia in 2016.
In his civil lawsuit, Manafort’s lawyers claim that Mueller overstepped his mandate to pursue “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Manafort claimed that Mueller’s team improperly interpreted their authority as giving them “carte blanche” to pursue crimes beyond Russian collusion.
In the filing on Friday, prosecutors cited the Dec. 13 congressional testimony of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s work because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
“I’m properly exercising my oversight responsibilities, and so I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding about the scope of his investigation,” Rosenstein testified. Mueller’s prosecutors attached a transcript of Rosenstein’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.
Prosecutors argued that Manafort improperly interpreted Mueller’s appointment order as allowing him to investigate crimes “uncovered for the very first time during his investigation.” They said that whatever the Justice Department knew about Manafort’s crimes before Mueller’s appointment didn’t preclude his prosecution.
Manafort’s lawsuit asked a judge to “set aside” all actions taken by Mueller against Manafort. This would “surely include ‘setting aside’ the indictment,” prosecutors wrote. “In effect, Manafort seeks a judgment that the special counsel lacks authority to prosecute him, and seeks to unwind actions taken against him as part of that prosecution,” according to the filing.