Paul Manafort, right, leaves the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, with his attorney, Kevin Downing, left. Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / ALM

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort sued the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday, alleging that Robert Mueller’s special counsel team has strayed far from its mandate by prosecuting him on charges related to past foreign lobbying work unrelated to his role in last year’s presidential race.

The complaint—filed by his criminal defense attorney, Kevin Downing—escalates Manafort’s legal battle against the special counsel and argues that the charges are entirely unrelated to the Mueller team’s task of investigating ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government.

The lawsuit requests that a federal judge declare Mueller’s appointment invalid and set aside all actions taken against Manafort.

Downing, who had previously criticized the charges as “ridiculous,” also argues that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein exceeded his authority to appoint a special counsel when he gave the prosecutors the additional power to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from” that investigation. Rosenstein made the Mueller appointment after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his recusal.

“Mr. Mueller’s investigation of Mr. Manafort has extended far beyond ‘links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,’” Downing wrote in the lawsuit. “The investigation has focused on Mr. Manafort’s offshore business dealings that date back to as early as 2005—about a decade before the Trump presidential campaign launched—and have been known to the United States government for many years.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment. A Justice Department spokesperson reportedly called the suit “frivolous.”

Hogan Lovells partner Neal Katyal, who helped craft the special counsel regulations in 1999 that now govern Mueller’s actions, called Manafort’s lawsuit “silly” in a thread on Twitter on Wednesday night:

“I’ve rarely seen a lawsuit this frivolous,” Katyal said Wednesday night appearing on The Rachel Maddow Show. He continued: “At the end of the lawsuit I think there’ll be one big winner.” And that would be Mueller.

Manafort and co-defendant Richard Gates, a former business associate, have pleaded not guilty. Two others charged by Mueller’s team—former national security advisor Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, who served on Trump’s foreign policy team—have pleaded guilty and are cooperating in the special counsel investigation.

Manafort’s civil lawsuit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an Obama-era appointee who joined the bench in 2013. Jackson was later considered for the U.S. Supreme Court seat that opened up after the death of Antonin Scalia.

 

Manafort’s lawsuit is posted below:

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