The Justice Department has asked a judge to dismiss former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's lawsuit challenging the authority of special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and alleging Mueller's appointment violated the law.
Manafort was indicted on money laundering and other charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty. The lawsuit argues Rosenstein and Mueller overreached their authority in bringing the charges.
"This lawsuit plainly seeks to interfere with Manafort's ongoing criminal prosecution," Justice Department attorneys wrote to Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday.
Mueller is leading the special counsel's investigation into any potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia -- one of several investigations into the matter. Rosenstein took on oversight of the special counsel's probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia in Moscow's efforts to influence the 2016 election.
Manafort's lawsuit, filed last month, marked a new tack in a broader effort by supporters of the President to push back on the special counsel. Some Republicans have publicly called for Mueller's probe to be shut down, and Manafort's attorneys have echoed the President's criticism that Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is pursuing crimes that never happened.
On Friday, Trump refused to say whether he was considering firing Rosenstein after the release of a declassified memo alleged the FBI had abused its FISA authority in applying for a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Rosenstein signed off on at least one of the applications to monitor Page, according to the GOP memo.
Later Friday, White House spokesperson Raj Shah said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that "no changes" would be made at the Justice Department.
"I'm saying it on behalf of the White House, and that's that no changes are going to be made at the Department of Justice," Shah said.
Manafort and his business colleague Rick Gates, who served as deputy chairman of Trump's campaign, face 12 criminal charges related to money laundering and failure to file federal disclosures. Gates has also pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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