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Russia Investigation

Manafort sues DOJ, Mueller over Russia probe authority

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(CNN) — Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman indicted on money laundering and other charges, filed a lawsuit challenging the broad authority of special counsel Robert Mueller and alleging the Justice Department violated the law in appointing Mueller.

The suit brought Wednesday in US District Court in Washington where Manafort and another former Trump campaign aide are charged, challenges Mueller’s decision to charge Manafort with alleged crimes that they say have nothing to do with the 2016 campaign, but rather relate to lucrative lobbying work Manafort and his deputy did for a former Russia-friendly government in Ukraine. That work ended in 2014, the suit says. Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates deny the allegations in the charges.

The legal action represents a new tack in a broader effort by supporters of the President to push back on the special counsel. Some Republicans have begun publicly calling for Mueller’s probe to be shut down. Manafort’s attorneys have echoed the President’s criticism that Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is pursuing crimes that never happened.

The Manafort lawsuit alleges Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller have unlawfully exceeded the authorities allowed under the law governing special counsel appointments. The lawsuit contends that the order Rosenstein signed to appoint Mueller “exceeds the scope of Mr. Rosenstein’s authority to appoint special counsel as well as specific restrictions on the scope of such appointments.”

A DOJ spokesperson responded with a statement, saying: “The lawsuit is frivolous but the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants.”

The lawsuit’s focus is on a part of the Rosenstein order that says that Mueller may investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” The Manafort lawyers say that goes beyond what the law allows Rosenstein to empower Mueller to do.

The Rosenstein order gives Mueller “carte blanche to investigate and pursue criminal charges in connection with anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote from the specific matter identified as the subject of the appointment order,” the lawsuit says.

Manafort and Gates face a total of 12 criminal charges related to money laundering and failure to file federal disclosures. Both Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to appear again before the judge in the criminal case on January 16.

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Russia Investigation

Robert Mueller files 32 new fraud charges against ex-Trump aides

The move marks the latest step in ratcheting up pressure on former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Robert Mueller files 32 new fraud charges against ex-Trump aides” was written by Julian Borger in Washington, for The Guardian on Friday 23rd February 2018 01.21 UTC

More than 30 new charges, involving millions of dollars of bank and tax fraud, were filed on Thursday against Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his business partner.

The 32 new charges were filed by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and a Russian intelligence operation to skew the 2016 presidential election.

The move marks the latest step in ratcheting up pressure on Manafort, and Rick Gates, his business partner who was deputy chairman of the Trump campaign. Gates has been reported to be negotiating a cooperation deal with Mueller’s office, which is in turn likely to significantly increase the pressure on Manafort to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into collusion.

The new charges come on top of the original 12-count indictment of Manafort and Gates in October, which focused on money-laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent.

No trial date has yet been set for Manafort or Gates, and Manafort remains under house arrest, as the special counsel’s office has argued against his lawyers’ bail proposals, questioning the true value of his assets.

In a statement, Manafort’s spokesman reiterated his client’s innocence, adding: “The new allegations against Mr. Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion. Mr. Manafort is confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied.”

The new charge sheet portrays the two men as resorting to increasingly desperate efforts to keep money flowing to finance extravagant lifestyles, when contracts from their main clients, pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, dried up after 2014, when the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Manafort and Gates are alleged to have used elaborate schemes, starting in 2006, to hide their Ukrainian income from US tax authorities, through offshore accounts, and describing cash transfers as loans.

After the Ukrainian funds evaporated, the two men are alleged to have falsified profit and loss and asset statements so that Manafort could convince banks to make loans based on collateral that either did not exist or was grossly exaggerated. The new loans were used as spending money or to pay off older loans that had fallen due.

Paul Manafort served for five months as chairman of the Trump campaign, resigning in August 2016 after past payments he had received for work in the former Soviet bloc came to light. Investigators are believed to be scrutinizing Manafort’s contacts with Russians during the campaign, including an offer by Manafort to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in July 2016 to provide “private briefings” on the US presidential race.

Manafort, 68, was charged on 30 October with multiple federal felonies unconnected with his campaign duties. The charges included money laundering, tax fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors accuse Manafort of using shell companies and tax havens to launder tens of millions of dollars in payments from Kremlin-backed political parties in Ukraine and other employers.

Manafort pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Manafort brought deep political experience to the Trump campaign. He had helped incumbent president Gerald Ford beat back a challenge for the nomination by Ronald Reagan at the 1976 Republican national convention and later built a lobbying business in Washington that specialised in unsavory clients around the world. Read more about Manafort’s career here.

 

“Manafort and Gates fraudulently secured more than twenty million dollars in loans by falsely inflating Manafort’s and his company’s income and by failing to disclose existing debt in order to qualify for the loans,” the special prosecutor indictment said.

At one point, according to the charge sheet, Manafort’s ability to get new credit was affected by a $300,000 American Express credit card bill that was more than 90 days in arrears. Manafort got Gates to write a letter saying he had borrowed Manafort’s card and had run up the charges and would repay them.

Manafort is alleged to have made false statements about his income as recently as October last year. The charges refer on three occasions to another conspirator. It is not clear whether the same co-conspirator is being referred to in each case or whether they refer to more than one person. In one case, the co-conspirator is described as working one of the lenders that was defrauded.

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Russia Investigation

Former Trump aide Gates to plead guilty, agrees to testify against Manafort, reports say

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WASHINGTON — A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days �� and has made it clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort, the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign. The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, who had pleaded… (more…)

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Russia Investigation

DOJ charges 13 Russian nationals with interfering in 2016 election

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Robert Mueller’s office charges 13 Russian nationals, 3 Russian entities with interfering in US political process. Indictment says Russians used fake online personas to support Donald Trump & Bernie Sanders, and to spread derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.

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