Several of special counsel Robert Mueller’s attorneys obtained a special status that could prevent the judge in the prosecution of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from ousting them, Politico reported.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III mentioned at a hearing earlier in May the possibility of shifting the case to federal prosecutors based in Alexandria, Virginia. However, when the lawyers appeared in the Alexandria court, several court filings show that they appeared as Mueller representatives and were also designated the status of special assistant U.S. Attorneys (SAUSAs) attached to the U.S. attorney’s office, the report said.
At least four of Mueller’s prosecutors submitted court pleadings that indicated they have the special status, Politico reported.
North Carolina attorney Haley White said the SAUSA status allows Mueller’s team, theoretically, to pursue matters that are outside of the special counsel’s mandate, Politico reported.
“They have all the powers and abilities that just a regular U.S. attorney would have,” said White, Politico reported.
When the lawyers obtained the special status is unclear. If the lawyers acquired SAUSA status before the first indictment against Manafort was obtained on Feb. 23, the former campaign chairman’s defense could lose part of the argument that the prosecutors lacked authorization and the indictment was tainted, the report said.
Legal questions could remain if they did not have the status when getting search warrants, the report said.
Manafort, in the Virginia case, is facing charges of bank fraud, tax evasion, and failing to report foreign bank accounts. The indictment in Washington charges Manafort with money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for his work with Ukraine, the report noted.
Ellis got details of the Mueller probe’s scope on Thursday, becoming one of the small number of Americans who have that information, The Associated Press reported.
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