WASHINGTON- Legal analysts sparred Monday as to whether Independent Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of former Trump campaign advisors Paul Manafort and Richard Gates falls outside the scope of the Justice Department’s Trump-Russia probe.
“The order appointing the special counsel has a very broad second prong which is the power to investigate and prosecute anything else that comes up while Mueller and his team are conducting an investigation of possible links and coordination,” said former federal prosecutor Jacob Frenkel.
The 12-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy, money laundering and making false statements in connection with the defendants business relationship with entities tied to the former pro-Russian Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych.
Many of the charges listed in the indictment pertain to activities that are believed to have occurred before the 2016 presidential campaign.
Frenkel said he expects the defendants’ counsel to mount a constitutional challenge petitioning for the dismissal of the charges based on that premise. Frenkel said the judge most likely would deny the petition but predicted that President Donald Trump would pardon both defendants.
Gayle Trotter, who is an attorney as well as the spokesperson for the conservative advocacy group Americans for Limited Government, said the indictment exceeds the scope of Mueller’s investigation and that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should intervene.
“His (Rosenstein’s) job is to assure that the special counsel is operating under the law and through this indictment we see that this investigation is far afield of an investigation of the 2016 presidential campaign,” she said.
“So Rosenstein should fire the special counsel and it should not fall on President Trump to direct him to do that,” Trotter added.
Trotter said if Rosenstein is unwilling to fire Mueller that the deputy attorney general should resign.