Mueller OK'd to probe Manafort-Russia collusion allegations

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

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

Downing said such a provision was vague and subject to abuse, and that Mueller would never have been able to indict Manafort had he stuck only to Russian meddling in the campaign. Manafort's suit initially sought to set aside Mueller's appointment as special counsel and nullify his actions related to Manafort.

In a heavily redacted memo also filed Monday, the special counsel's office revealed that Rosenstein explicitly gave Mueller the authority to investigate Manafort's Ukraine work, along with whether he "committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials" during the 2016 presidential race.

A Justice Department lawyer asked Berman Jackson to throw out Manafort's civil lawsuit and instead visit some of the issues Manafort has raised during his criminal case.

Manafort sued the Department of Justice (DOJ), Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller in January, arguing that the charges against him should be dismissed and that Mueller's Russian Federation investigation stepped out of bounds. "Do you have one case that supports this?" If anything, Schwei said, the memo showed that the proper place to deal with Manafort's challenges to the special counsel appointment was in the criminal case.

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.

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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.

"The notion that a civil court should be entering orders and enforcing them over law enforcement is a tremendous incursion on the separation of powers", Schwei said.

Additional sections of the two-and-half-page memo were blacked out by prosecutors, indicating that Rosenstein authorized other specific lines of investigation that remain a secret. 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. 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".

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.

In a court filing last week, prosecutors indicated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has assessed that a longtime Manafort business associate who was in contact with both Manafort and Gates during the campaign had ties to Russian intelligence.

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"It would also naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications", prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors argued that their investigation would only "naturally follow the money trail from Manafort's Ukrainian consulting activities", work that resulted in the criminal charges.

"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.

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