D.C. Court Throws Out Roger Stone Associate’s Challenge To Mueller

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After months on end of failed challenges, some of those put under scrutiny in the Russia investigation continue to believe they can topple Special Counsel Robert Mueller, even as his probe nears its apparent end. Those challengers continue to be proven wrong — this week, a federal appeals court dismissed a claim brought by Roger Stone associate Andrew Miller that Mueller’s appointment was unconstitutional because he’d not appeared before the Senate or been appointed by the president himself. The idea was that he was a “principal officer” whose position was covered by the Constitution’s so-called Appointments Clause.

That idea didn’t line up with reality, however. The D.C. Appeals Court ruled that Mueller is actually an “inferior officer” who only serves at the direction of those higher up on the food chain. The still in-office Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller shortly after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading the Russia investigation.

Because Miller lost his bid to discredit that appointment, he also remains in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena that Mueller’s team has slapped him with.

He had been joined late last year in his legal challenge by the Russian company Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which had been facing its own uphill battle against criminal charges that it claimed it should be exempt from. First, it claimed via its American legal team that Mueller lacked the appropriate authority to charge the entity — similarly to Miller’s argument — and it then claimed that prosecutors hadn’t actually fulfilled the burden of proof to bring the conspiracy charges it faced. D.C. area federal Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that quite simply, that argument was nonsense.

The case they then joined is among the last few apparent public threads that the special counsel’s office is dealing with. Recently, they hit longtime Trump associate Roger Stone with an array of serious federal criminal charges including witness tampering, lying to Congress, and obstruction of justice. Unlike most other current and former Trump associates who’ve so far faced charges as part of the Mueller probe, Stone has begun fighting the allegations and made no indication he’s at all interested in cooperation. He faced indictment after the special counsel’s office questioned an array of his associates beyond the antagonistic Miller.

Mueller’s office is also preparing for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s sentencing next month in the D.C. court case against him that includes charges like conspiracy against the United States for his years of secretive lobbying work for the now defunct pro-Kremlin government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort had attempted an effort similar to what Miller undertook, claiming in a lawsuit about a year ago that Mueller’s appointment violated Justice Department procedure and he had overstepped his investigative bounds.

He hadn’t, and Manafort’s lawsuit was thrown out, and the disgraced operative now lives in jail.

There’d been talk of Mueller’s “final report” dropping this week, although it’s now been revealed to be farther in the future. Still, we don’t exactly need to wait to see his investigation’s force and implications.

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