Manafort's Civil Suit Challenging Mueller Probe Is Dismissed

(Bloomberg) -- Paul Manafort lost his civil lawsuit attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s authority to charge him with crimes unrelated to his role as President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington threw out the suit Friday, saying the criminal cases against Manafort are the proper venue for his assault on the Justice Department’s May 17 order that granted Mueller authority to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"A civil case is not the appropriate vehicle for taking issue with what a prosecutor has done in the past or where he might be headed in the future," Jackson wrote in the 24-page decision.

In the January lawsuit, Manafort claimed Mueller overstepped his authority to investigate Russian meddling and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."

Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

Manafort, 69, is accused in Washington federal court of money laundering and failing to report his lobbying in Ukraine. He faces a separate bank and tax fraud indictment in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort has launched similar attacks on Mueller’s authority in both criminal cases.

The lawsuit initially sought to set aside Mueller’s May 2017 appointment as special counsel and nullify his actions related to Manafort.

But at an April 4 hearing, Downing scaled back his request, saying he didn’t want to overturn Mueller’s appointment entirely. Rather, he wanted to bar future actions by Mueller while also invalidating the section granting Mueller authority to probe “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

In her ruling, Jackson said that “in the wake of the surgery” that Manafort “has performed on his own complaint,” not much was left to his lawsuit.

“The only aspect of this case that is left standing is Manafort’s effort to forestall unspecified and as yet unknown future developments in the special counsel investigation,” the judge wrote. Such “purely speculative” harm raises significant questions on whether he has standing to sue.

Exceeding Scope

The Justice Department and Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were accused in the complaint of violating the Administrative Procedure Act by appointing Mueller without following the agency’s internal regulations. Mueller was also accused of exceeding the scope of the appointment order without seeking additional authority.

But the Justice Department argued the civil suit could interfere with the criminal cases, and that the agency’s internal regulations don’t grant anyone the right to sue.

Jackson, who’s overseeing the Washington criminal case, said her ruling shouldn’t be seen as weighing in on the merits of Manafort’s parallel complaints in the criminal cases, despite "obvious overlaps" of the issues being raised.

The case is Manafort v. U.S. Department of Justice, 18-cv-00011, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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