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Paul Manafort is suing Robert Mueller, but it might not be for his own benefit

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (left) sued special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department for charging him with conspiracy and money laundering. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, sued special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department for charging him with conspiracy and money laundering, saying those things have nothing to do with the alleged Russian collusion Mueller is supposed to be investigating.

The specifics of the lawsuit

Manafort was charged in October for actions related to offshore business dealings, and the lawsuit asks the courts to nullify the charges and limit Mueller’s investigation to Russian election interference.

From the lawsuit:

“Mr. Mueller’s investigation of Mr. Manafort has extended far beyond links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. The investigation has focused on Mr. Manafort’s offshore business dealings that date back to as early as 2005 – about a decade before the Trump presidential campaign launched – and have been known to the United States government for many years.”

Manafort said he told the FBI and federal prosecutors about his dealings with the Ukrainian government voluntarily back in 2014, but was charged more than two years later as a result of Mueller’s overreach. There is no known connection between Manafort’s foreign lobbying activities and the Trump campaign.

The Justice Department responds

A Justice Department statement dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous,” but also acknowledged that Manafort can sue whoever he wants.

“I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding of the scope of the investigation,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who Manafort accused of granting Mueller too much leeway with the Russia probe.

Ulterior motive?

According to former Justice Department official Jimmy Gurule, who served under President George H.W. Bush, the lawsuit has little chance of success but could be a way to force Mueller to reveal the scope of the investigation.

“If the ultimate objective is to continue to try to undermine the credibility of Mueller and his prosecutors, it could have some value, Gurule told The New York Times. “But in terms of legal strategy, it’s highly unlikely to prevail.”

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