Court rejects challenge to Mueller's appointment

A federal appeals court in Washington on Monday rejected a challenge to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s appointment that was brought by Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneOverwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Trump seizes on poll that shows half agree Mueller investigation is a 'witch hunt' Judge sets Roger Stone trial for early November MORE associate Andrew Miller.

"Because the Special Counsel is an inferior officer, and the Deputy Attorney General became the head of the Department by virtue of becoming the Acting Attorney General as a result of a vacancy created by the disability of the Attorney General through recusal on the matter, we hold that Miller’s challenge to the appointment of the Special Counsel fails,” Judge Judith Rogers wrote in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's unanimous opinion.

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The court also upheld a district court order holding Miller in contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury in Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

In appealing the district court ruling, Miller argued Mueller's appointment was unlawful under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution.

He claimed the special counsel is a principal officer who was not appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate; Congress did not “by law” authorize the special counsel’s appointment; and the special counsel was not appointed by a “head of Department.”

Following then-Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump O'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump MORE's recusal from the Russia investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Rosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Graham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks MORE was acting as head of the department when he appointed Mueller, the court said.

Stone, for whom Miller worked, was recently indicted on seven charges stemming from Mueller’s investigation, including obstruction of a congressional inquiry, witness tampering and five counts of making false statements to Congress. He has pleaded not guilty.