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Manafort sues Mueller, Justice Department over Russia probe

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 3:36 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 3:36 PM


            In this Nov. 6, 2017 photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington. Manafort has sued special counsel Robert Mueller saying he exceeded authority in the Russia probe. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In this Nov. 6, 2017 photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington. Manafort has sued special counsel Robert Mueller saying he exceeded authority in the Russia probe. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Donald Trump'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 Mueller's legal authority and the scope of his mandate as special counsel. It comes amid Republican allegations of partisan bias among members of Mueller's team, which for months has been investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the U.S. election.

The lawsuit also takes aim at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller's investigation and recently said he was satisfied that the former FBI director was staying within the scope of his authority.

Manafort was indicted in October on charges, including money-laundering conspiracy, related to his lobbying work on behalf of a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. He has pleaded not guilty. He is one of four Trump associates — including former national security adviser Michael Flynn — to be charged so far in Mueller's investigation.

In his complaint , Manafort alleges that the investigation into "decade-old business dealings" is "completely unmoored" from the mandate Mueller was given when he was named in May to probe possible ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. He argues that a paragraph in Rosenstein's order appointing Mueller, which allows him to pursue new matters he comes across during his investigation, is too broad to be permitted under the regulation that governs special counsels.

"The Special Counsel's investigation and indictment resulted from a violation of numerous DOJ policies and procedures and otherwise far exceeds any lawful authority to investigate links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government," the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit asks a judge to set aside all actions brought against Manafort by the special counsel's office and to issue an order narrowing the scope of Mueller's investigation to only matters explicitly laid out in the appointment order. The complaint also alleges that Rosenstein's order was overly broad and arbitrary, and urges a judge to strike it down as an "abuse of discretion."

Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

A Justice Department spokesman said, "The lawsuit is frivolous, but the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants." A spokesman for Mueller's office, Peter Carr, declined to comment.

Manafort acknowledged in his complaint that his foreign business dealings have been of interest for years to federal prosecutors. He said he met voluntarily with Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents in July 2014, or three years before Mueller's appointment, to discuss his "offshore political consulting activities." He said that during the interview, he discussed in detail his activities in Ukraine, his relationships with diplomats in Kiev and his offshore banking in Cyprus.

But, Manafort said, "those 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 Counsel's probe into President Trump's campaign."

Manafort's lawyer had asked Rosenstein in September to say whether he had granted Mueller the authority to investigate Manafort for potential tax and other white-collar crimes dating back a decade. But according to the complaint, Rosenstein has not responded to that request.

Rosenstein has been publicly supportive of the special counsel's work. He told a congressional committee last month that he had signed off on Mueller's investigative moves, including what fell within his authorized scope.

"I know what he's doing," Rosenstein testified. "I'm properly exercising my oversight responsibilities, and so I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding about the scope of his investigation."

Asked by a congressman if there was a "solid factual basis" for the criminal charges against Manafort, Rosenstein said he was "comfortable with the process that was followed with regard to that indictment."

___

Read Manafort's lawsuit: http://apne.ws/e7f3Gq2

Read Mueller's appointment order: http://apne.ws/SUcEEx4

Steve Bannon to testify before House Intel Committee in Russia probe

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 11:19 AM

Who is Steven Bannon

Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week in its probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

An unidentified source told Reuters on Thursday that the interview will take place Tuesday behind closed doors. It will focus on Bannon’s time as Trump’s campaign chief and not on his time in the White House, according to Reuters.

In preparation for the interview, Bannon hired Washington attorney Bill Burck to represent him, NBC News reported Friday. Burck was previously hired to represent former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Donald McGhan in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, according to Law360.

Burck is representing Bannon only before the committee and not in Mueller’s probe, NBC News reported.

Trump named Bannon, the former chairman of the conservative news website Breitbart News, as his campaign chief in August 2016. After his inauguration, Trump appointed Bannon to fill the newly created position of White House chief strategist.

He left the Trump administration in August 2017, almost exactly one year after joining Trump’s presidential campaign.

>> Related: Steve Bannon out as White House strategist

Days before his exit, Bannon faced scrutiny for an interview he did with the liberal magazine The American Prospect, contradicting the president's warnings to North Korea of "fire and fury" in response to threats. Tension between the pair intensified last week after Bannon was quoted in journalist Michael Wolff’s controversial tell-all book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

>> Related: 10 stunning claims about Trump White House from 'Fire and Fury'

Bannon told Wolff he thought a meeting set up by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others in June 2016 was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Trump slammed Bannon in a statement after the comments were made public, saying, “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Bannon later apologized for the comments.

>> Related: Report: Bannon apologizes for comments about Trump family in new book

Bannon announced Tuesday that he would be leaving Breitbart News for the second time in two years.

>> Related: Report: Steve Bannon stepping down as executive chairman at Breitbart News

"You have not heard the last from me," he wrote in a Twitter post announcing his departure.

Federal judge temporarily blocks Trump administration's plan to end DACA

Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 5:55 AM

Trump Denies Making Deal on DACA with Democrats

A federal judge in California dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – also known as DACA – on Tuesday by temporarily blocking their ability to do so.

In his ruling, Judge William Alsup said DACA must stay in place until litigation over the program is complete. He also said that the Department of Homeland Security’s “decision to rescind DACA was based on a flawed legal premise.”

The judge’s ruling will allow recipients who didn’t renew by last year’s deadline to submit renewal applications, but no new applications will be allowed to be submitted.

>> Read more trending news 

“Dreamers’ lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump administration tried to terminate the DACA program without obeying the law,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, according to The Hill. “Today’s ruling is a huge step in the right direction.”

“America is and has been home to Dreamers who courageously came forward, applied for DACA and did everything the federal government asked of them,” Becerra continued. “They followed DACA’s rules, they succeeded in school, at work and in business, and they have contributed in building a better America. We will fight at every turn for their rights and opportunities so they may continue to contribute to America.”

The Trump administration announced in September that it was ending the program; however, earlier on Tuesday, during a meeting with Republicans and Democrats to discuss immigration issues, Trump appeared willing to negotiate a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants – a move that stunned both Democrats and Republicans.

“My head is spinning with all the things that were said by the president and others in that room in the course of an hour and a half,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said, according to The New York Times.

During the meeting, Trump also appeared to support Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein’s call for a clean DACA bill, which would push off dealing with issues like border security until later.

In a tweet Tuesday evening, though, he did seem to harden his resolve on the border wall, saying that a southern border wall must be part of any “DACA approval.”

Oprah 'intrigued' by idea of running for president, friend Gayle King says

Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 @ 12:35 PM

Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey attend The Robin Hood Foundation's 2016 Benefit at Jacob Javitz Center on May 9, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey attend The Robin Hood Foundation's 2016 Benefit at Jacob Javitz Center on May 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)(Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Longtime pal Gayle King said Tuesday that Oprah Winfrey is “intrigued” by the idea of running for president, although she said it’s still unclear whether the media mogul is seriously considering a run.

>> Read more trending news

“I don’t think at this point she is actually considering it,” King said on “CBS This Morning.”

“She loves this country and would like to be of service in some way, but I don’t think she’s actively considering it.”

Two of Winfrey’s friends, who were not identified, told CNN on Monday that she was “actively thinking” about running for president. Her long-time partner Stedman Graham told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday that Winfrey “would absolutely do it."

"It's up to the people," he added.

King said Tuesday that she thought Graham misunderstood the Times reporter’s question.

“He thought the reporter said to him, ‘Would she make a good president?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely she would,’” King said. “That's how he interpreted the question, because this is the thing. Stedman would never so cavalierly say absolutely she would do it. It's up to the people. He would never do that.”

Winfrey fueled speculation that she could look to mount a campaign in a rousing, nearly 10-minute speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday. Still, she denied having any presidential ambitions while speaking with a Bloomberg News reporter backstage at the awards show.

She was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her contributions to the entertainment industry and used her time onstage to address the “#MeToo” movement. The movement has encouraged more women to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

What You Need to Know: Oprah Winfrey

"I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon," Winfrey said. "And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'Me too' again.”

King, who was at the Golden Globes when Winfrey gave her speech, described being in the room as “electrifying.”

“It was the right person giving the right speech at the right time,” she said. “She wanted that moment to be more than women wearing black dresses of solidarity. She really did want to speak to young girls around the country. She really did want to say, ‘Enough already,’ and I think she delivered on all that in a very eloquent way. Will she run for president? I think it's a very, very intriguing idea myself."

The left points to ‘Fire and Fury’ as the case against Trump. They should look again

Published: Monday, January 08, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

Three remaining copies of the book
Three remaining copies of the book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff are displayed at a Barnes & Noble store, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Newport, Ky.(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The book “Fire and Fury” offers reported behind-the-scenes stories about Donald Trump’s White House. But are the stories credible? A roundup of editorials Monday takes a look at the issue.

Opinions from the right:

Fire & Fury signifying nothing

From The Orange County Register: The author of ‘Fire and Fury’ has an ego just about as big as Trump’s. Who are we to believe?

Has Trump lost his mind or has CNN lost its bearings?

From Townhall: Will CNN ever be able to get over the fact Trump became president?

Why hasn't Wolff's dementia-Trump been seen in public?

From the DC Examiner: The author of “Fire and Fury’ claims Trump is unstable, with those on the left all-to-eager to believe the behind-the-scene accounts. But, have we really seen that at Trump’s public events?