Robert Mueller: Appeals court hears arguments about whether special counsel is legitimate
WASHINGTON – Lawyers for a witness cited for contempt in the Russia investigation asked a federal appeals court to upend the probe on Thursday, arguing that Robert Mueller should never have been appointed to run it.
Lawyers for witness Andrew Miller, an associate of Roger Stone, argued that federal law doesn’t permit the Justice Department to hand broad law enforcement power to an outside lawyer, and that officials within the department hadn’t supervised him closely enough.
Mueller’s office argued that federal law – and federal courts – have long approved of that practice.
Four lower-court judges already have rejected five similar challenges to Mueller’s authority. But Thursday’s argument was the first time it had been presented to a federal court of appeals.
The three judges on the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit gave no indication that they had been persuaded. No deadline was set for a decision.
Judge Karen Henderson told lawyers to argue the case as if the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions hadn’t occurred Wednesday, and that more written arguments may be required.
“We will most likely be asking for supplemental briefing,” Henderson said.
Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation after working on Trump’s campaign. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller in place of Sessions, after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 for investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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