WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager sued on Wednesday the special prosecutor investigating alleged collusion between the Republican’s campaign and the Russian government.
Paul Manafort, who was indicted in October along with business associate Richard Gates on charges including conspiracy to launder money, tax evasion, failure to register as a foreign agent and conspiracy against the United States related to past work for political figures in the Ukraine that ended in 2014, filed the lawsuit at the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
He named former FBI Director Robert Mueller; Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May to lead the investigation; and the Justice Department.
In the complaint, Manafort alleges that the Justice Department broke the law by giving Mueller excessively broad authority to probe potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The suit said the broad latitude given to Mueller “exceeds the scope of Mr. Rosenstein’s authority to appoint special counsel as well as specific restrictions on the scope of such appointments.”
Manafort’s complaint said that in authorizing Mueller to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” Rosenstein had given the special prosecutor carte blanche to probe “anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote.”
Finally, the suit says the appointment order issued by the Justice Department and Rosenstein – and Mueller’s actions pursuant to that order – were “arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with the law.”
The charges against Manafort stem from the Russia probe but are unrelated to his activities as Trump’s campaign manager for part of 2016.
Mueller accuses Manafort and Gates, who also was a senior Trump campaign aide, of creating a web of shell companies and bank accounts in different countries to launder up to $75 million they had obtained from lobbying work for the former pro-Russian Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych and from Russian oligarchs.
Manafort and Gates, who have pleaded not guilty, could each face more than 10 years in prison if convicted.
The suit comes as Mueller is under attack by some Republicans who question his legitimacy to conduct the Russia investigation.
Mueller has faced accusations of impartiality due to, among other reasons, revelations that a key member of the special prosecutor’s team, Peter Strzok, had exchanged text messages harshly critical of then-candidate Trump.
Those messages, uncovered as part of a Justice Department review, led to Strzok’s reassignment from Mueller’s team last summer.
Leading Democrats say Trump’s surprise victory in the Nov. 8, 2016, balloting was due in part to the Russian government’s meddling in the campaign and, in particular, its alleged hacking of the computers of the Democratic National Committee.
They say the disclosure by WikiLeaks of e-mails from the DNC and from the chairman of Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, John Podesta, contributed to her election defeat.