Federal Judge In Manafort Trial Scolds Mueller Prosecutors Over Their Actual Motivation

  • Federal Judge In Manafort Trial Scolds Mueller Prosecutors Over Their Actual Motivation

Federal Judge In Manafort Trial Scolds Mueller Prosecutors Over Their Actual Motivation

Now the judge wants to know why Mr. Mueller's signature prosecution doesn't appear to have anything to do with it.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis questioned if the charges against Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager who is also facing a federal indictment in the District of Columbia, were truly part of the special counsel's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. The other, brought in Virginia, charges him with tax fraud, bank fraud, and failing to report foreign bank accounts. Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty and disputes Mueller's assertion that he violated US laws when he worked for a decade as a political consultant for pro-Russian groups in Ukraine. Neither of those situations applies to the prosecution of Manafort.

The judge's unusually provocative remarks and questions don't necessarily indicate how he will rule, but they put Mueller's team on the defensive. Manafort's team won't have access to the unredacted version of the memo.

He added that he does not expect Ellis to use Mueller's motivation in bringing charges as the basis of any decision he makes, but that if he does, "he will be reversed". "You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment". Judge Amy Berman Jackson had dismissed a civil suit over the issue of Mueller's jurisdiction, but pointedly not on the merits of the complaint.

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. While much of the document was redacted, Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate at least two threads related to Manafort: allegations that he colluded with Russian officials during the campaign, and allegations that he committed crimes "arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych". Manafort is seeking to have the charges against him thrown out on the basis that the alleged tax and bank fraud charges against him have nothing to do with Trump or the campaign.

The Virginia indictment alleges Manafort hid millions of dollars he earned as an adviser to pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine from the Internal Revenue Service before Donald Trump ran for president.

The judge's concerns suggest that he could side with Manafort and his legal team, who have argued that the charges handed down by Mueller are not valid because they are not directly tied to Russian collusion. He repeated his suspicion several times in the hour-long court hearing.

"This indictment didn't arise from your investigation", Ellis said. Ellis, though, suggested another remedy would be to simply hand the case back to regular federal prosecutors.

"I'm sure you're sensitive to the fact that the American people feel pretty strongly about no one having unfettered power", he said, asking Dreeben whether the special counsel had already blown through its $10 million budget. Trump said he was given a copy of the story before he took the stage.