Federal judge: Mueller wants Manafort 'to sing' about Trump

Federal judge: Mueller wants Manafort 'to sing' about Trump

A US federal judge has challenged Special Counsel Robert Mueller's authority to bring charges against Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, suggesting that prosecutors were only using the case to force him to provide evidence against the president.

Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis III was hearing a motion brought by the attorney for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, seeking the dismissal of his indictment for bank fraud on the grounds that such charges were outside the scope of Mueller's investigative authority.

Dreeben said Mueller's office takes its "primary mission" of investigating Russia's election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign "very seriously".

The bank and tax fraud charges that Mr. Manafort faces in Virginia are rooted in the Ukrainian line of inquiry, as is a second indictment in the District of Columbia that accuses him of money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent and making false statements to investigators. Ellis went on to say that defense lawyers are naturally concerned that defendants in that situation will not only sing but "compose" - meaning that they'll make up facts. And Ellis said it was implausible to think that the charges against Manafort, which primarily concern his business dealings and tax returns from about 2005 through 2015, could have a real connection to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

"Why in NY did you feel it was not necessary to keep that, but it was necessary to keep this bank fraud, which I think manifestly has nothing to do with the campaign?"

He asked Dreeben whether the special counsel had already blown through its $10 million budget; Dreeben declined to answer. "Why is NY different?"

"I'm sure you're sensitive to the fact that the American people feel pretty strongly about no one having unfettered power", Ellis said.

"We don't want anyone in this country with unfettered power". "It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything her or she wants".

Manafort's lawyers have tried to have the charges against him in both Virginia and Washington, D.C., federal court dismissed for several months now. He then repeatedly interrupted Dreeben as he sought to explain the connection between the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Manafort's activities in Ukraine a decade earlier.

Ellis said prosecutors were interested in Manafort because of his potential to provide material that would lead to Trump's "prosecution or impeachment".

"I'm not saying it's illegitimate", Ellis said. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

Referring to his own long tenure of the bench-he was appointed a federal district court judge by Ronald Reagan in 1987, and has had senior (effectively part-time) status since 2007-Ellis said that he knew that prosecutors hoped to pressure Manafort into implicating the president.

In court documents filed last month, prosecutors told a federal judge in Washington, DC overseeing a separate criminal case against Manafort that they suspected Manafort of serving as a "back channel" between the campaign and Russian Federation during the election.

Mueller's prosecutors will have to turn over a full, unredacted version of the August 2 memo that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein used to describe the criminal allegations Mueller's team could investigate, Ellis ordered.

"This is a scathing, detailed indictment against Manafort", Cramer said.

Judge Ellis seemed amused by that, framing the prosecution's case back to them.

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