WASHINGTON (CN) – President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a federal complaint Wednesday taking aim at the scope and authority of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The Jan. 3 lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C. by Manafort attorney Kevin Downing names Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Department of Justice as defendants. The complaint alleges that Rosenstein exceeded his authority by allowing Mueller to expand his investigation, and that the special counsel appointment order violates the Justice Department’s special counsel regulations.
“The investigation of Mr. Manafort is completely unmoored from the Special Counsel’s original jurisdiction to investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” the complaint says. “It has instead focused on unrelated, decade-old business dealings – specifically, Ukraine political campaign consulting activities of Mr. Manafort.”
Those issues, Downing contends, did not even arise within the course of Mueller’s probe, but had instead been known through media reports dating back to 2007 that indicated Manafort had failed to register his company, which worked for Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych in 2006, as a foreign agent.
Mueller charged Manafort, along with his long-time business associate Rick Gates, on Oct. 30 on 12 counts, including conspiracy, money laundering, being an unregistered foreign agent and failure to pay taxes on millions earned as a lobbyist for the former Ukrainian government.
Manafort claims to have disclosed these very activities to the FBI in July 2014.
Manafort’s lawsuit accuses Rosenstein of giving Mueller the power to investigate any matters that arise during the course of his investigation of Trump-Russia coordination, in violation of Justice Department’s regulations. According to Manafort’s complaint, Mueller needs to consult with the attorney general to determine whether matters that arise during the course of his investigation can be included in the special counsel’s jurisdiction.
“Under the appointment order, the special counsel’s authority is not confined to the specific matters identified by politically accountable officials,” the complaint says. “The appointment order purports to grant authority to the special counsel to expand the scope of his investigation to new matters without the consent of – indeed, without even consulting – any politically accountable officer of the United States.”
The Office of Special Counsel declined to comment on the lawsuit. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Manafort says Rosenstein has failed to respond to a letter from Downing asking for confirmation or denial of whether he granted Mueller additional jurisdiction to investigate Manafort’s “potential tax crimes and other white-collar criminal offenses dating back to January 1, 2006,” and other tax crimes during the 2010 tax year.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller as a special counsel on May 17 after President Trump fired former FBI director James Comey, who had previously overseen the agency’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian effort to sway the election in Trump’s favor.
Ordinarily, the attorney general would oversee the appointment of a special counsel, but Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March after a storm erupted over his failure to disclose contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Manafort’s lawsuit argues that because the appointment order exceeded the Justice Department’s authority, it must be set aside under the Administrative Procedure Act. Manafort claims that he has suffered “significant reputational harm, financial expense, and invasion of his personal privacy.”
The lawsuit asks the court to overturn Mueller’s appointment, and declare the order “invalid,” “arbitrary and capricious,” and an “abuse of discretion.”
Manafort also wants all actions against him set aside, and an injunction limiting the scope of Mueller’s investigation should it be allowed to continue.
Downing did not respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit.