An associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign adviser Roger Stone has been held in contempt of court after he refused to comply with a subpeona to testify before a grand jury investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Stone associate Andrew Miller refused to comply with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's subpoena to testify in Washington on August 10, arguing that the subpoena powers and other extraordinary powers given to Mueller violate the U.S. Constitution -- a move that prompted the court to hold him in contempt.
Although previous challenges to Mueller's legitimacy have failed, Miller's attorney, Paul Kamenar, argued that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not have the authority to appoint someone with sweeping powers like those given to Mueller, saying such powers can only be granted to U.S. attorneys approved by the Senate.
Miller's argument mirrored a similar claim made recently by President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized Mueller's investigation into ties between Russia and his campaign as a "witch hunt."
Kamenar said that some powers given to the special counsel, including the ability to indict foreign actors, exceed those given to ordinary attorneys, who must be confirmed by the Senate.
After months of investigation Mueller now appears to be focusing on Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump who was a political consultant during his 2016 election campaign. Miller worked for Stone during that campaign.
Stone may figure prominently in a major case Mueller brought last month against 12 Russian military intelligence officers who he accused of hacking into the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic opponent, and releasing tens of thousands of private communications in a sweeping Kremlin-orchestrated conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election.
According to the charges, the Russian defendants, using a persona known as Guccifer 2.0, in August 2016 contacted a person in touch with the Trump campaign to offer help.
Stone, through his attorney, has acknowledged having a "24-word exchange with someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0."
The statement from lawyer Grant Smith said the exchange "provides no evidence of collaboration or collusion with Guccifer 2.0 or anyone else in the alleged hacking of the [Democratic National Committee] e-mails."
But Mueller's subpoena of Miller and other Stone associates recently suggests he is currently focusing on whether Stone may have had knowledge in advance about the damaging leaks of Democratic documents that Guccifer provided to Wikileaks in the months running up to the November 2016 presidential election.