WASHINGTON - President Donald Trumpâ€™s former campaign chairman sued special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department on Wednesday, saying prosecutors had overstepped their bounds by charging him for conduct that he says is unrelated to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The lawsuit by Paul Manafort, filed in federal court in Washington, is the most direct challenge to date to Muellerâ€™s legal authority and the scope of his mandate as special counsel. It comes amid Republican allegations of partisan bias among members of Muellerâ€™s team, which for months has been investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the U.S. election.
Manafort was indicted in October on charges related to his lobbying work on behalf of a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. He has pleaded not guilty.
He alleges in his lawsuit that the investigation into â€śdecade-old business dealingsâ€ť is â€ścompletely unmooredâ€ť from the mandate Mueller was given when he was appointed in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
â€śThose alleged dealings had no connection whatsoever to the 2016 presidential election or even to Donald Trump. Nor were they uncovered in the course of the Special Counselâ€™s probe into President Trumpâ€™s campaign,â€ť the suit alleges.
The lawsuit also argues that Rosensteinâ€™s order appointing Mueller was overly broad and arbitrary.
Manafortâ€™s lawyer, Kevin Downing, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A spokesman for Muellerâ€™s office, Peter Carr, declined to comment.