(Bloomberg) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller defended his latest indictment of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, while ignoring Trump’s caustic criticisms this week of Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Mueller’s prosecutors used a court filing late Tuesday to urge a judge to reject Manafort’s request for dismissal of his tax and bank fraud indictment filed in Virginia. Manafort claims that the special counsel overstepped his May 2017 appointment order. That order directs him to investigate links between Russia and Trump’s campaign, as well as matters that “arose or may directly arise” from the probe.
Prosecutors say Manafort earned tens of millions of dollars as a consultant for Russia-backed politicians in Ukraine, failed to pay taxes and defrauded lenders. Manafort countered that Mueller exceeded his authority by charging him with crimes that had nothing to do with Trump’s campaign. In their filing, prosecutors said they followed all of the rules.
“The special counsel has acted within his authority in investigating and prosecuting Manafort for crimes arising from his Ukrainian payments,’’ prosecutors wrote in the filing in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where Manafort was indicted on Feb. 22.
Mueller’s filing made no reference to Trump’s angry outburst on Monday in the White House after FBI agents raided the home, office, and hotel room of the president’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. While Mueller wasn’t directly involved in that -- he’d referred the case to federal prosecutors in New York -- Trump called it disgraceful and said: “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.’’
Trump suggested that he might fire Mueller, a move that would trigger a political firestorm.
“Why don’t I just fire Mueller?,’’ Trump asked. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens.’’
In the filing, Mueller’s prosecutors reiterated most of the arguments they made a week ago in federal court in Washington, where Manafort is accused of money laundering, conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent. Manafort had also asked a judge to dismiss that indictment.
As they did in the Washington case, prosecutors cited a heavily redacted memo, dated Aug. 2, 2017, and signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that supplements the order appointing the special counsel. That memo cited suspicions by prosecutors that Manafort had colluded with Russian government officials and committed crimes arising out of his work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The memo said Mueller had “authority to continue and complete the investigation of those matters.”
The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), and U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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