Paul Manafort, victim of no-knock Mueller raid, files suit against Mueller

Paul Manafort, who worked on Donald Trump's presidential campaign, filed suit to challenge the authority of Robert Mueller under the special counsel law, alleging that the order appointing Mueller is vague and overly broad and that the indictments against Manafort should be dismissed.

This is not a defense on the merits of the charges against Manafort, but Manafort is correct that the order appointing Mueller is broad and vague.  The civil complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that the appointment violates the law.

The law authorizing a special counsel provides for the following:

28 CFR 600.4 - Jurisdiction

§ 600.4 Jurisdiction.

(a)Original jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of a Special Counsel shall be established by the Attorney General. The Special Counsel will be provided with a specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated. The jurisdiction of a Special Counsel shall also include the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel's investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses; and to conduct appeals arising out of the matter being investigated and/or prosecuted.

The law requires that the attorney general specify the specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated.  In this case, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein issued the following order to Mueller:

By virtue of the authority vested in me as [a]cting [a]ttorney [g]eneral … and to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, I hereby order as follows: ...

b) The [s]pecial [c]ounsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI [d]irector James Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including: (i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation[.]

This is not a "specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated."  What are "links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump"?  The words "links" and "coordination" are broad and vague and can mean any contact.  The words "individuals associated" are broad and vague and can mean any person, however remote to President Trump, who had some "association" with President Trump.  They can include persons who never met Trump and persons unknown to Trump.

The purpose of the investigation as set forth in the preamble is "to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election[.]"

Rosenstein does not state a specific factual statement about how the Russian government tried to interfere with the election.  He does not even state that the Russian government did interfere with the election.  He states only that we have to investigate the "efforts" of the Russian government to interfere.  If Rosenstein had any evidence of actual interference with our election, he would have and should have specified the interference.  Moreover, Rosenstein does not even state how the Russian government tried to interfered as a specific factual statement for Mueller to investigate. 

The only statement to Mueller is to investigate "links and/or coordination" between the Russian government and anyone "associated" with the campaign of President Trump.

Rosenstein refers to Comey's testimony of March 17, 2017 before the House Intelligence Committee as a basis for the order to appoint Mueller.  Comey's testimony is even more broad and vague than Rosenstein's order:

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts.  As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

Because it is an open ongoing investigation and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining[.]

Comey testified merely that the FBI was investing "any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."  This is almost verbatim the language in Rosenstein's order.  Comey used the same words – that the FBI was investigating the "Russian government's efforts to interfere."  Comey does not say the Russians did interfere with the election.

Mueller was given a broad, vague order to investigate without a clear, specific factual statement about the matter to be investigated. 

Mueller will have to rely on the broad language of "links, coordination, and associations" to justify his investigation of Manafort for alleged crimes not related to the 2016 election.  But it is those broad, vague words that are contested as the basis of Mueller's jurisdiction.

The Justice Department has not done its duty to properly appoint a special counsel.  Manafort has asked a federal court to do the job the Justice Department should have done.  Mueller will argue that the court should not use its judgment to rewrite the order because that is the function of the Justice Department.  But the court can rule on whether the indictments exceed the scope of the order, which means that Mueller did not have jurisdiction to investigate and file the charges against Manafort.

The Justice Department should step in to review the status of the Mueller investigation and clarify and limit the order as required by law to give Mueller a specific factual statement, if such a factual basis exists, about what he is to investigate.   The obvious conclusion is that a specific factual statement cannot be given because there are no specific facts to include.

Paul Manafort, who worked on Donald Trump's presidential campaign, filed suit to challenge the authority of Robert Mueller under the special counsel law, alleging that the order appointing Mueller is vague and overly broad and that the indictments against Manafort should be dismissed.

This is not a defense on the merits of the charges against Manafort, but Manafort is correct that the order appointing Mueller is broad and vague.  The civil complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that the appointment violates the law.

The law authorizing a special counsel provides for the following:

28 CFR 600.4 - Jurisdiction

§ 600.4 Jurisdiction.

(a)Original jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of a Special Counsel shall be established by the Attorney General. The Special Counsel will be provided with a specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated. The jurisdiction of a Special Counsel shall also include the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel's investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses; and to conduct appeals arising out of the matter being investigated and/or prosecuted.

The law requires that the attorney general specify the specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated.  In this case, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein issued the following order to Mueller:

By virtue of the authority vested in me as [a]cting [a]ttorney [g]eneral … and to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, I hereby order as follows: ...

b) The [s]pecial [c]ounsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI [d]irector James Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including: (i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation[.]

This is not a "specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated."  What are "links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump"?  The words "links" and "coordination" are broad and vague and can mean any contact.  The words "individuals associated" are broad and vague and can mean any person, however remote to President Trump, who had some "association" with President Trump.  They can include persons who never met Trump and persons unknown to Trump.

The purpose of the investigation as set forth in the preamble is "to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election[.]"

Rosenstein does not state a specific factual statement about how the Russian government tried to interfere with the election.  He does not even state that the Russian government did interfere with the election.  He states only that we have to investigate the "efforts" of the Russian government to interfere.  If Rosenstein had any evidence of actual interference with our election, he would have and should have specified the interference.  Moreover, Rosenstein does not even state how the Russian government tried to interfered as a specific factual statement for Mueller to investigate. 

The only statement to Mueller is to investigate "links and/or coordination" between the Russian government and anyone "associated" with the campaign of President Trump.

Rosenstein refers to Comey's testimony of March 17, 2017 before the House Intelligence Committee as a basis for the order to appoint Mueller.  Comey's testimony is even more broad and vague than Rosenstein's order:

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts.  As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

Because it is an open ongoing investigation and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining[.]

Comey testified merely that the FBI was investing "any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."  This is almost verbatim the language in Rosenstein's order.  Comey used the same words – that the FBI was investigating the "Russian government's efforts to interfere."  Comey does not say the Russians did interfere with the election.

Mueller was given a broad, vague order to investigate without a clear, specific factual statement about the matter to be investigated. 

Mueller will have to rely on the broad language of "links, coordination, and associations" to justify his investigation of Manafort for alleged crimes not related to the 2016 election.  But it is those broad, vague words that are contested as the basis of Mueller's jurisdiction.

The Justice Department has not done its duty to properly appoint a special counsel.  Manafort has asked a federal court to do the job the Justice Department should have done.  Mueller will argue that the court should not use its judgment to rewrite the order because that is the function of the Justice Department.  But the court can rule on whether the indictments exceed the scope of the order, which means that Mueller did not have jurisdiction to investigate and file the charges against Manafort.

The Justice Department should step in to review the status of the Mueller investigation and clarify and limit the order as required by law to give Mueller a specific factual statement, if such a factual basis exists, about what he is to investigate.   The obvious conclusion is that a specific factual statement cannot be given because there are no specific facts to include.