Paul Manafort isn’t just trying to get out of several years worth of money-laundering and fraud, he’s doing his part to end the entire Mueller investigation. The argument put forward by his legal team is that the whole idea of a special counsel violates “this nation’s structures and traditions” and that in any case the scope given to Robert Mueller “exceeds the authority” of the Department of Justice.
At the center of Manafort’s argument is that a single line in Rod Rosenstein’s instructions to Manafort:
… and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation …
The interpretation of the special counsel rule, as put forward by Mueller’s legal team, is that the DOJ can only address a “specific issue,” and by allowing Mueller to chase down crimes that he discovers along the way, the appointment exceeds that narrow writ.
A ruling in favor of Manafort would look to be a home run for him—though it’s not at all clear that all the evidence leading to his numerous indictments would go away, or that the charges from Mueller’s Grand Jury would not immediately be replaced by identical charges from a jury in New York. But if Manafort could get a judge to nod along with this proposal, it would be a very big deal for Donald Trump and for others involved in the investigation, as it would seriously handcuff not just what Mueller could use in indictments, but his ability to collect information.
Manafort doesn’t stop there. Even if the judge says special counsels are okay, and even if the judge feels that Rosenstein was within his rights when he wrote out Mueller’s scope, Manafort says that the charges against him didn’t arise directly out of the investigation. So they should all go away.
It’s a big swing … and it’s very likely to be strike two, because Manafort already tried this approach.
This is the second time that Manafort has attempted to challenge the lawfulness of Mueller’s appointment last year as special counsel as well as the reach of the special counsel’s investigation. Manafort is separately pursuing a civil lawsuit that raises the same arguments.
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