Floyd Landis' long-running legal dispute has bizarrely now entered the US political arena, calling into question the legitimacy of President Donald Trump's recent Attorney General appointee Matt Whitaker and his ability to legally consent to part of Landis' settlement in the civil suit accusing former teammate Lance Armstrong of defrauding the US government.
Landis filed a motion Monday in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, asking that Whitaker's appointment be declared invalid, according to USA Today. Piggy-backing on previous motions filed by Senate Democrats and the state of Maryland, Landis' attorney Paul Scott argued that Whitaker is not the legitimate head of the Justice Department because he has not been approved by the Senate.
"Though this motion may potentially go against his financial interests, Floyd is basically just trying to do the right thing here," Scott, told USA Today. "The legitimacy of the (attorney general) happened to present itself in his case, so he decided to take a stand on the issue."
Landis filed a 'whistleblower' lawsuit in 2010 under the federal False Claims Act, arguing that Armstrong, Bruyneel and the owners of Tailwind Sports defrauded the government by doping while the team was sponsored by the US Postal Service. The US government joined the suit in 2013.
The majority of the case was settled earlier this year, but a part of it regarding Johan Bruyneel was still pending when President Donald Trump appointed Whitaker to replace Jeff Sessions on November 7, according to USA Today.
Landis' motion asks the court to determine that deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has been approved by the Senate, is the legitimate acting attorney general and therefore he or a delegate should advise the court on whether the Justice Department approves of Landis' settlement.
Armstrong settled for $6.5 million, of which $5 million went to the government and $1.5 million went to Landis. After legal fees, Landis came away with around $750,000, which he plans to funnel into supporting a Continental racing team with Canadian Gord Fraser.
To close the final element of the fraud case, Landis and the government went after Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports separately. The government won a $1.23 million judgment against Bruyneel, and Landis claimed part of that settlement as the person who brought the whistleblower case. Landis also claimed the judgment should have been much higher, but his legal motion was denied, which prompted him to appeal.
The government agreed to give Landis 10 per cent of the $1.23 million settlement if he dropped the appeal. The settlement, however, needed the Justice Department's approval, and Landis' recent motion calls into question the agency's legitimacy under Whitaker to OK the deal.
"After reviewing legal challenges to Mr. Whitaker's appointment, (Landis) has concluded that the appointment is invalid and unconstitutional, and by operation of law … Rosenstein is the current Acting Attorney General, which undermines the validity of the consent," Landis' motion argued, according to USA Today.
The move is a tricky one for Landis, whose motion puts his recent settlement into question and could end up costing him money in the long run.
"It would definitely have been simpler and less expensive to just stay quiet and wait for payment," Scott told USA Today.
The Justice Department has previously argued that Whitaker's appointment is "lawful and comports with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act."
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