Mr. Manafort argued in the lawsuit that Mr. Mueller had gone too far. He sued both Mr. Mueller and Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who appointed Mr. Mueller. The lawsuit said Mr. Rosenstein had improperly given Mr. Mueller the authority to investigate “anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote.”
Mr. Manafort asked a federal judge to reject Mr. Mueller’s appointment as overly broad and to dismiss the indictment against him. He also asked for a court order prohibiting Mr. Mueller from investigating anything beyond Russian meddling in the election.
A spokesman for Mr. Mueller had no comment on the lawsuit.
The case faces an uphill climb because Mr. Rosenstein has said publicly that he has specifically approved every significant step that Mr. Mueller has taken in the investigation.
Document Read Paul Manafort’s Lawsuit Against Mueller Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, sued the Department of Justice; the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein; and the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Wednesday over the investigation into possible connections between Mr. Trump's associates and Russian election interference. OPEN Document
But Mr. Manafort’s strategy is a clever legal maneuver that attempts to force prosecutors to reveal details about the scope of the investigation. By filing a separate lawsuit, Mr. Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, also creates the possibility of a protracted fight over Mr. Mueller’s authority.
“If the ultimate objective is to continue to try to undermine the credibility of Mueller and his prosecutors, it could have some value,” said Jimmy Gurulé, a Notre Dame law professor who was a senior Justice Department official in the administration of the first President George Bush. “But in terms of a legal strategy, it’s highly unlikely to prevail.”
Worse for the White House, the lawsuit also invites Mr. Mueller to give a “devastating response” that spells out all the ways Mr. Manafort is relevant to Mr. Trump and the Russia investigation, said Peter Zeidenberg, a former prosecutor who worked on a special counsel investigation during the George W. Bush administration. “If I’m the government, I’m licking my chops to file this response. He’s going to tie a bow on this,” he said of Mr. Mueller.
Even if Mr. Manafort succeeds at every turn, his problems are not over. He could still face charges if new prosecutors decided to bring them. But any court ruling that narrowed Mr. Mueller’s authority would give him less leeway to use unrelated charges as leverage against people close to the president.
Mr. Mueller won the cooperation of Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, for instance, after investigating him for unregistered foreign lobbying and lying to the F.B.I. on matters unrelated to the election.
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The lawsuit provides fodder for Republicans who are trying to discredit Mr. Mueller’s investigation. As evidence that Mr. Mueller is biased, critics have pointed to Democratic donations by members of his team and anti-Trump text messages sent by an F.B.I. agent whom Mr. Mueller removed from the investigation.
The accusations in the charges against Mr. Manafort date back years, well before he began working for Mr. Trump. His lawyers argue that Mr. Mueller should be allowed to investigate only matters that directly arise from the Russia investigation. That theory echoes comments made by Mr. Trump, who has said that Mr. Mueller cannot investigate his family’s finances.
Mr. Mueller served as F.B.I. director under the younger Mr. Bush and Barack Obama. He is credited with refocusing the F.B.I. on counterterrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And he was widely praised by members of both parties when he was put in charge of the Russia investigation.
Mr. Trump has said he has no plans to fire Mr. Mueller, but he and his allies have repeatedly tried to disparage his investigation. Those efforts evoke the scandals of President Bill Clinton’s administration and his White House’s attempt to portray the independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, as a partisan who had run amok.
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