Law & the Courts

Federal Judge: Mueller’s Mandate May Be Too Broad

Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill in 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

The federal judge overseeing the prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort questioned the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election Thursday.

During a hearing in one of the criminal cases Mueller brought against Manafort, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein’s order empowering the special counsel to investigate any crimes he encountered during his probe may have violated Justice Department policy.

Manafort’s lead defense attorney, Kevin Downing, argued that Rosenstein’s May 17 order empowering Mueller to investigate Russian interference and any issues “that may arise” during the probe violated the DOJ requirement that a special counsel be made aware of a “specific factual matter” prior to his appointment.

Jackson appeared to agree but noted that Rosenstein was constrained by a lack of knowledge regarding what Mueller’s team might find, according to Politico.

“That’s a fair point,” Jackson said. “[But] I don’t think that, as good as he is, that the deputy attorney general can see into the future.”

Downing further suggested that if Mueller’s mandate was overly broad, the charges against Manafort, which include money laundering and failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, would be invalid.

“I don’t know how they can violate these regulations and we can still be here and it doesn’t matter,” Downing said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Jackson didn’t appear to follow Downing’s logic to completion: She issued no ruling on the defense’s motion to dismiss individual counts in the indictment and suggested that Manafort’s ties to Ukrainian government officials fall within Mueller’s mandate.

Jack Crowe — Jack Crowe is a news writer at National Review Online.

Most Popular


Monday Links

The Guy Who Makes the World’s Best Paper Airplanes. The Theater That Shakespeare Stole. The Invention of the Baby Carrot Phrases commonly used today which are derived from obsolete technologies. This device was used to resuscitate canaries in coal mines. The Surprisingly Complex Design of the ... Read More

School Shootings and the Incentives of Violence

Today’s Morning Jolt discusses school shootings and the common difficulties of the teenage years, and I thought of another aspect that I forgot to include -- the degree to which our society, in its reaction to violence, inadvertently rewards that violence. Every teenager wants attention, to be recognized, to ... Read More
NR Marketing

Down the Home Stretch

Our Spring 2018 Webathon winds up this week. El jefe, Mr. Lowry, makes the case, wonderfully, for your participating, even at this final stage. In case you need some visual inspiration, we’ll use this horse race image from the novel Ben Hur (you'll remember the 1959 movie version starred the late NR ... Read More

The Feminization of Everything Fails Our Boys

Let me share with you two troubling — and, I believe, closely linked — news reports. The first, from this weekend, comes courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry. In one chart, he highlights the dramatic and growing gender gap in higher education. In short, women are dominating: ... Read More