Mueller authorized by DOJ to investigate alleged Manafort collusion with Russian government

The judge, Amy Berman Jackson, is also presiding over the criminal case brought by Mueller against Manafort in federal court in Washington, D.C. "Each step the Special Counsel has taken against Mr. Manafort has been without lawful authority", Manafort's lawyers wrote in mid-March. Manafort continues to his innocence and could face trial as early as September. He also said that he wasn't challenging the entire appointment order, but a bulletpoint allowing Mueller to investigate "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation", which Downing said violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

Jackson asked why the Russia-specific part of Mueller's appointment order wouldn't apply to Manafort anyway, since it referred to "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump". He said Mueller, who was assigned to investigate potential coordination between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, overstepped his bounds by charging him for conduct that occurred years before the 2016 presidential election.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team of prosecutors included that detail in a memo defending the scope of their investigation, which so far has resulted in criminal charges against 19 people and three Russian companies. Manafort's motions to dismiss the charges Mueller's team has brought in Washington and Virginia federal district courts. Manafort's claims, he said, "can and will be adjudicated in those other cases".

The government will tell the judge that Manafort has no right to challenge how the Justice Department's rules governing special prosecutors are enforced. The criminal charges against him stem from his work on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, the Party of Regions, and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Previously, Manafort's attorneys complained that Mueller exceeded his authority by opening cases against Manafort, because they involved business conducted years before he joined the Trump campaign in 2016.

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Manafort is charged with conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and making false statements all in relation to payments he received for work done for Yanukovych. 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.

A court filing on Monday showed Mr Mueller is specifically authorised to investigate whether Manafort colluded with Russian Federation to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and his ties to Ukraine's former pro-Russia government prior to 2016. 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.

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.

Several of the prosecutors who've worked on Manafort's criminal case for Mueller's office, including lead prosecutor Andrew Weissmann and appellate specialist Michael Dreeben, watched the hearing.

  • Sonia Alvarado