The Justice Department is expected to begin laying the groundwork for the first trial of a Trump administration attorney in more than a decade, marking a significant departure for the department.
The Justice Department said Tuesday that it would seek a trial of Michael B. Mukasey, the former chief of the bureau’s Russia probe, in the Eastern District of Virginia in March for allegedly lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The case would be the first of a series of civil cases the Justice Department has launched in recent years to address Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and to defend Trump from other legal challenges to his presidency.
Mukasey will be arguing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the case that arose from the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the U-S.
election and its possible ties to Trump.
The civil case is the latest to focus on the role that the Justice and FBI have played in the Trump administration’s handling of the investigation, and how the government has been unable to produce evidence to support any charges.
While the Justice decision marks a departure for Mukaseys case, it’s also a significant step forward for the bureau, which had been looking for a way to proceed.
The Justice decision will likely fuel concerns among those who believe the Trump team should be held accountable for Russia’s efforts to influence the election, including allegations of interference with the 2016 campaign and possible collusion with Trump associates.
As Mukaseies case moves through the court system, the Justice official said the bureau would “continue to pursue and pursue” the cases of other top Trump administration officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former White House adviser Jared Kushner.
The agency also said it will pursue and prosecute the cases in other states, including California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington.
Mamie Boudreau, a law professor at Washington and Lee University who specializes in civil rights, said Mukaseyms case could set precedent for the DOJ.
“Mukas case will be the beginning of a very large civil case for the U,D.C. District and could set the precedent for other federal defendants to be able to sue the DOJ,” she said.
Boudreau said Mukas case could be seen as a sign of the Justice department’s increasing importance in criminal matters.
“This case shows the DOJ is going to be going after people that are really going to put the American people’s interests first,” she added.
In the past few months, a number of high-profile cases involving Russian interference in U. S. elections have been opened against Trump administration figures, including the prosecution of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia and has blamed the Democrats for the investigation.
The case involving Mukaseyls attorney has been one of the first to take place under the Trump DOJ.
The attorney, Andrew Weissmann, is currently representing Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in February.
Weissmann said in a court filing that he plans to file the civil case in the spring.
Mussa Ghebreyeva, a professor at the University of Southern California School of Law, said that the Mukaseydys case would “set the stage” for more civil cases under the DOJ and in the courts.
“It would be very good for the Trump White House to have a public figure like Mr. Mukas, who is very well-known and well-respected in Russia, representing the Trump campaign,” she told The Hill.