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Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort challenges special counsel’s authority

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President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will try to convince a federal judge on Wednesday to throw out criminal charges filed against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, arguing Mueller has overstepped his legal authority.

Manafort filed a civil lawsuit on Jan. 3 against Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department official who appointed him, in a key legal test of how far the special counsel’s mandate extends. Mueller is investigating potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia as well as whether the president has unlawfully tried to obstruct the probe.

Wednesday’s hearing will mark the first time Manafort’s lawyer will get a chance to persuade U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Mueller’s investigation has run amok and needs to be reined in.

 Manafort is one of a number of people already charged in Mueller’s probe, which has hung over Trump’s presidency.
On Tuesday, Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who previously worked closely with Manafort and former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to Muller’s investigators.

Manafort, who performed lobbying work for a pro-Russian former Ukrainian president before serving as Trump’s campaign chairman in the 2016 U.S. election, is facing an array of charges in two indictments brought by Mueller in federal courts in Washington and Alexandria, Virginia. He is charged with offenses including conspiring to launder money, failing to register as a foreign agent, bank fraud and filing false tax returns.

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Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

As a general matter, defendants like Manafort in criminal cases are not usually able to use civil litigation to try to challenge criminal charges. Justice Department lawyers are expected to bring up this point on Wednesday, saying the proper way to tackle alleged defects in the indictment is by raising them in the criminal case directly.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May 2017 and oversees the investigation. Manafort’s lawsuit relies on an arcane law called the Administrative Procedure Act, which spells out the process federal agencies must follow when writing regulations. Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein under Justice Department rules governing the hiring of special prosecutors.

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Manafort’s lawyer is expected to argue that Rosenstein’s order hiring Mueller is overly broad and not permitted by law because it gives the special counsel carte blanche to probe “any matters that arose or may arise” from his investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

He will also argue that Mueller’s case against Manafort did not arise from his Russia probe, because the FBI investigated Manafort over the same conduct and closed the case in 2014. None of the charges against Manafort are directly connected to the 2016 election campaign.

The government will tell the judge that Manafort has no right to challenge how the Justice Department’s rules governing special prosecutors are enforced.

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

 Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing is seeking to have the charges dismissed in both criminal cases using similar arguments. In the Washington criminal case, the same judge is also presiding over the civil litigation.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
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MSNBC’s Morning Joe wants to know why Mueller went easy on Don Trump Jr: ‘Why wasn’t he investigated?’

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said special counsel Robert Mueller had some big questions to answer to assure Americans that the rule of law still existed.

The "Morning Joe" host asked NBC News reporter Carol Lee about her new report asking why Donald Trump Jr. had not been questioned as part of the special counsel probe, and h laid out the biggest questions facing Mueller ahead of his congressional testimony.

"There are only three questions that most Americans want the answer to," Scarborough said. "Was there obstruction, was there collusion and would Donald Trump have been indicted had he not been the president of the United States? Those are three pretty simple questions, but I don't think he'll -- I don't think you'll get the answers tomorrow, sadly."

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Boris Johnson wins race to become Britain’s next PM

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Boris Johnson won the race to become Britain's next prime minister on Tuesday, but will face a confrontation over Brexit with Brussels and members of his own party as well as a tense diplomatic standoff with Iran.

The former London mayor easily beat his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a poll conducted among members of the governing Conservative Party.

He is expected to be confirmed as prime minister on Wednesday, when his predecessor Theresa May formally tenders her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.

It is a triumph for a man who has always wanted the top job, but Johnson, known for his jokes and bluster, is taking over at a time of immense political upheaval.

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Mueller’s investigation did nothing to stop the next Russian attack: Cybersecurity expert

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The special counsel investigation of Russian election interference accomplished almost nothing to prevent further attacks on U.S. democracy, according to a cybersecurity expert.

Robert Mueller's investigation resulted in convictions for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, along with former national security adviser Mike Flynn and others, but the former FBI director had little authority to hold Russian agents accountable for the crimes he uncovered, wrote cybersecurity analyst Robert Johnson for The Daily Beast.

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