Chuck Ross, DCNF
- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein okayed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Paul Manafort for Ukrainian lobbying activities
- Manafort argued that the investigation went outside the scope of the investigation into Russian meddling in the campaign
- Mueller produced a memo showing Rosenstein gave him this authority
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the special counsel’s office to investigate former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying activities as well as possible collusion with Russian government officials, according to a court filing late Monday night.
Special counsel Robert Mueller made the revelation in order to defend the scope of the investigation against a motion that Manafort filed on March 14 to dismiss his case.
Manafort argued that Rosenstein’s May 17, 2017, appointment of the special counsel only allowed Mueller to investigate alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government and not his pre-election political consulting work. Manafort, a longtime Republican lobbyist, noted that his consulting work in Ukraine occurred well before he joined the Trump campaign in April 2016.
But Mueller’s team pointed to an Aug. 2, 2017, memo written by Rosenstein laying out the scope of Mueller’s mandate.
In the heavily redacted memo, Rosenstein granted Mueller authority to investigate allegations that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials” to interfere with the 2016 election as well as crimes “arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych.”
Manafort and his former business partner Rick Gates were indicted in October on money laundering and fraud charges related to his work for Yanukovych between 2005 and 2014. Gates has since pleaded guilty in the case and is cooperating with Mueller’s investigators.
Manafort, who had not seen the Rosenstein memo before Monday’s court filing, argued that Rosenstein’s appointment of the special counsel violated the Justice Department’s regulations regarding special counsels “by failing to confine the scope of the Special Counsel’s jurisdiction.”
Mueller argues in the court filing that the original authorization granted authority to investigate Manafort’s pre-campaign lobbying activities. The investigation would “naturally” look into any interaction that Manafort “may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications.”
Mueller also asserted that the payments from the Ukrainian government “has factual links to Russian persons and Russian-associated political actors.”
Manafort was paid millions of dollars by a political party affiliated with Yanukovych, a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Mueller’s indictment against Manafort alleges that he illegally laundered some of the money through shell companies.
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