Mike Baehr / Flickr paul manafort illustration...
Mike Baehr / Flickr

Apparently the holiday period allowed for a mass buildup of crazy, all of which broke through the dam today. Included in the flood: A lawsuit by Paul Manafort against the Department of Justice, Robert Mueller in his role as special counsel, and Rod Rosenstein as acting attorney general (because Jefferson B. Sessions III recused himself from the Russia investigation, freeing up more time to screw with the Civil Rights Division).

What is Manafort asking for in his suit? Death. Or at least the death of the special counsel’s office.

This is a civil action under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§701 et seq.; the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §2201; and for injunctive relief to restrict public officers to their lawful authority, against the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Acting Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, and Robert S. Mueller III.

Specifically, Manafort claims that the powers that Rosenstein gave Mueller, to pursue:

“any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Are too broad. Allowing Mueller to address other matters discovered in the course of the investigation, says Manafort’s suit, goes beyond the writ of the special counsel legislation.

Manafort’s suit is an attempt to do a complete end-around—quite likely providing the only possible out for charges of money-laundering and violations of foreign lobbying laws where Manafort’s guilt seems extremely obvious. Success on these counts is, to put it mildly, very unlikely … but it would be a home run for Team Trump were Manafort to succeed.

Specifically, Manafort is challenging Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller on the basis that the writ given the special counsel was too broad.

That grant of authority is not authorized by DOJ’s special counsel regulations. It is not a “specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated.” Nor is it anancillary power to address efforts to impede or obstruct investigation under 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

If that doesn’t work, Manafort follows that claim with one against Mueller, saying that as special counsel he has exceeded that broad writ in going after events that happened before the campaign.

The indictment raises stale allegations DOJ must have been aware of for nearly a decade; they are not matters that “arose . . . from the investigation” into the 2016 election and alleged collusion with the Russian government. By ignoring the boundaries of the jurisdiction granted to the Special Counsel in the Appointment Order, Mr. Mueller acted beyond the scope of his authority. Mr. Mueller’s actions must be set aside.

Much of the argument in the lawsuit appears to be dedicated to explaining why the vanished independent counsel law was considered a bad idea, and how this special counsel appointment is too much like an independent counsel appointment … except for the part about how this special counsel appointment is bound to the Department of Justice through political constraints that didn’t exist for the independent counsel.

Now it’s off to the DC district court to see if Manafort’s attorneys are more canny than everyone else involved, or just making a long-shot claim because … why not?

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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