On Wednesday, President Trump's ex-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, sued the Justice Department's special counsel, urging a federal court to narrow Robert Mueller's investigation to Russian collusion with Trump's campaign, not private business deals.
Mr. Downing says the Mueller investigation centers on lobbying work and tax filings that ended in 2014, well before Mr. Manafort joined the Trump campaign team.
The Manafort lawsuit names as defendants Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein, who appointed the special counsel after Attorney General Jeff Sessions bowed out of the Russian Federation investigation. His lawsuit, which also names Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a defendant, argues that the charges are not connected to the investigation into Russia's tampering with the 2016 presidential election.
The 12 charges brought against him last October - along with one of his business associates, Rick Gates - include conspiracy to launder money.
Manafort's lawsuit alleges that Rosenstein's order tapping Mueller violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the government rulemaking process.
The Manafort lawsuit alleges Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller have unlawfully exceeded the authorities allowed under the law governing special counsel appointments. Some of the president's surrogates have called for Mueller's investigation to be shut down and for the Justice Department to appoint another special counsel to investigate former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Manafort's lawsuit, filed in a US District Court in Washington, DC, charges that Mr. Mueller's Team is supposed to be investigating claims of collusion, not his past history as a high-earning political consultant.
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Although the Special Counsel statute survived a 1988 constitutional challenge in Morrison v. Olson, most legal scholars believe that Justice Antonin Scalia's lone dissent in that case was constitutionally correct.
The accusations in the charges against Mr. Manafort date back years, well before he began working for Mr. Trump. 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.
Manafort acknowledged in his complaint that his political consulting business in Ukraine has been of interest for years to US prosecutors.
Instead, the executive branch - that is, the president - enacted a regulation that enables the attorney general to appoint a special counsel like Mueller.
Manafort also claims he told prosecutors about his offshore banking activity in Cyprus.
The lawsuit could be the first legal test of how far Mueller's mandate extends, a question that is critical to his investigations into Manafort's and others' financial, real estate and other dealings.
Admittedly those charges relate to conduct allegedly committed well before Manafort was on the Trump campaign. Many House Republicans say that the special counsel's probe is tainted by political bias and that it will never give Trump a fair shake.