A federal appeals court Friday directed the Justice Department and lawyers challenging the authority of special counsel Robert Mueller to file briefs on whether President Trump’s ouster of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions affects their case.
The case involves Andrew Miller, an associate of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone who was cited for contempt for refusing to testify before Mr. Mueller’s grand jury. He appealed the contempt decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
At the center of Mr. Miller’s argument is the special counsel’s constitutional authority and whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had the power to appoint Mr. Mueller. The special counsel is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
But Mr. Rosenstein is no longer overseeing the investigation after Mr. Sessions was fired this week. His replacement, acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, took over the Mueller probe from Mr. Rosenstein.
In the one-paragraph order, the three-judge panel said lawyers for both sides have until Nov. 19 to argue whether there will be legal ramifications of Mr. Whitaker’s appointment.
Mr. Whitaker had been critical of the Mueller investigation, making comments while working as a CNN contributor about ending the probe. Democratic lawmakers have requested Mr. Whitaker recuse himself from the Mueller probe.
Prosecutors with the special counsel’s office subpoenaed Mr. Miller in May and he immediately mounted a legal challenge to Mr. Mueller’s authority.
Mr. Stone, a Republican political consultant, worked briefly on the Trump campaign. He has been under investigation by Mr. Mueller for allegedly working with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to leak information that would sink the campaign of Hillary Clinton, President Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 election.