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Judge tosses Manafort civil suit challenging special counsel
30 April 2018, 01:27 | Bernice Figueroa
Drew Angerer Getty Images
Paul Manafort leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington D.C. on Feb. 28 2018
A federal district court judge has dismissed Paul Manafort's civil lawsuit against the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
In her decision, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote that a civil suit is not the way for Manafort to challenge actions by the prosecutors who are working for Mueller's office.
Mr. Manafort is facing dozens of charges of money laundering, bank fraud, tax evasion and failing to register as a foreign agent in connection to work he did for years on behalf of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who was an ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russian Federation.
In particular, Manafort's attorneys pointed to an August memo that Rosenstein sent Mueller as evidence that Rosenstein "got something wrong" when he tapped Mueller to oversee the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian Federation to influence the outcome.
Manafort separately has moved to dismiss criminal charges in the District ahead of a scheduled September trial date there and in federal court in Alexandria, where he faces trial July 10 on tax-related and banking charges to which he also has pleaded not guilty.
She added that if Manafort's concerns would be more appropriately brought in a criminal case.
Rosenstein's order appointing Mueller makes clear that the special counsel is authorized to investigate and prosecute Russian meddling in the 2016 election, potential links or coordination between Trump campaign associates and the Russians, as well as "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation". Manafort defense lawyer, Kevin Downing, a former Miller & Chevalier partner, argued during that hearing that an injunction was necessary to guard against the possibility of future prosecutions in additional jurisdictions. Jackson said Manafort has an "adequate remedy at law in the form of his pending motions to dismiss or future motions to dismiss".
"This is a collateral civil challenge attacking a criminal prosecution", Schwei told the judge.
The August 2017 memo shows Rosenstein specifically authorized the special counsel to investigate Manafort for his political consulting work in Ukraine on behalf of the government and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
In dismissing Manafort's lawsuit, Jackson did not address the substance of Manafort's arguments about Mueller's authority. The judge cited the "sound and well-established principle" that potential defendants can not "circumvent federal criminal procedure" that already permits individuals to challenge charges within criminal proceedings.
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