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Manafort judge skeptical of suit disputing Mueller's authority

A Justice Department attorney, Daniel Schwei, argued that Manafort can't use a civil lawsuit to attack Mueller's authority.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explicitly authorized the Justice Department's special counsel to investigate allegations that President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman colluded with the Russian government, according to a court filing.

He did not elaborate on what charges he believed could be pressed against his client. A D.C. federal court indicted him previous year, but more charges were filed again, and there was a second and third indictment in February.

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. An amended complaint is expected. 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.

Mueller cited business ties between Manafort and the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs the Capitol after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign in Washington, June 21, 2017. She questioned whether there was a clear limit on how broad a special counsel's authority could be from the get-go; how Manafort had standing to sue over a possible future prosecution that hadn't yet happened; and why he should be able to bring a civil lawsuit when he could make the same arguments in the criminal cases, where he clearly had the right to challenge the indictments.

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson - who is also handling Manafort's criminal case in DC - expressed significant doubts on Wednesday about whether Manafort could pursue a civil lawsuit.

Wednesday's hearing came just days after Mueller's team defended its authority to investigate Manafort by releasing a copy, with redactions, of a classified Justice Department memorandum issued in August 2017.

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.

Manafort's longtime deputy Rick Gates, 45, was initially charged jointly with Manafort but pleaded guilty to reduced charges last month and is now cooperating with Mueller's probe.

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. "And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort's Ukrainian consulting activities".

Forcing defendants to try to dismiss counts case-by-case and "chasing indictments" jurisdiction by jurisdiction would force criminal defendants into a game of "whack-a-mole" that no individual could win against the resources of the government, Downing 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.

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