A federal judge presiding over the Paul Manafort case has expressed skepticism over what prosecutors in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office are really after in bringing criminal charges against the businessman.
Mueller, 69, stands accused of financial crimes arising from his consulting work in Ukraine, but his legal team wants the case dismissed because it has nothing to do with the investigation into alleged Russia government collusion in the 2016 presidential campaign. Manafort headed Trump’s campaign for about five months. Prosecutors are probing transactions that go back more than a decade and appear unrelated to the election.
President Trump has repeatedly characterized the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt. In comments made today in an Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III implied that it was more like a politically motivated fishing expedition, the Washington Post reported.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.”
The Reagan appointee also suggested that the Mueller Team is pressuring or leveraging Manafort to flip on Trump, Politico noted.
“The vernacular is to ‘sing,’ is what prosecutors use. What you got to be careful of is they may not only sing, they may compose.”
In grilling the Mueller prosecutors, Judge Ellis added about possible overreach that “We don’t want anyone in this country with unfettered power. It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants. The American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power,” CNN detailed.
A Mueller prosecutor insisted that the team had not exceeded its mandate. Rebuffing claims that some of Mueller’s powers are secret, Judge Ellis gave the Mueller lawyers two weeks to submit a full, unredacted (i.e., uncensored) version of an August 2017 memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that gave the Mueller team the authority to pursue allegations against Manafort.
The otherwise skeptical judge has not indicated whether he is inclined to dismiss the case against Manafort for jurisdictional reasons, asserting that “I’m not saying it’s illegitimate.”
Perhaps reflecting his thoughts about the actual intent of the Manafort prosecution, Judge Ellis also wondered why Meuller retained the Paul Manafort case while handing off the Michael Cohen case to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. The judge also floated the idea of transferring the Manafort case to the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Parenthetically, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has never publicly explained why most, if not all, of the attorneys hired in the Russia collusion investigation have ties to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Paul Manafort came under scrutiny by the Obama Justice Department four years ago, but no charges were ever filed, The Daily Caller recalled.
Complex litigation, even when it doesn’t involve the U.S. president or his associates or former associates such as Paul Manafort, often has many twists and turns, so please check back regularly with the Inquisitr for further developments.
Update: In the video clip below, President Trump includes remarks about what the Manafort judge said in court about the Mueller investigation in his speech to the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas.