Federal judge questions Mueller's motives in Manafort case

Robert Mueller Paul Manafort blank subpoenas

Robert Mueller Paul Manafort blank subpoenas

"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud", Judge Ellis told Michael Dreeben, who was representing. "You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment".

"It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special counsel has unfettered power to do whatever he wants", said Ellis, who was appointed to the bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Judge Ellis did not rule on the motion, saying he wants to see unredacted versions of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's orders assigning special counsel before he can issue a ruling.

Manafort's charges in Virginia relate to bank fraud and other financial allegations from years ago.

Trump enthusiastically read the judge's comments out loud to his audience during a speech to the National Rifle Association in Dallas, saying they echoed his longstanding views.

The judge attacked the investigation, claiming Mueller should not have "unfettered power" in his Russian Federation probe and that the charges against Manafort did not arise from the investigation into Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 USA election.

"Let me tell you, folks, we're all fightin' battles". He has called Mueller's investigation biased and a "witch hunt".

He asked Dreeben why the special counsel had chose to refer the criminal investigation into Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen to the US Attorney in NY rather than keep it in house, answering his own question as though he were Mueller, because the Cohen probe didn't "further our core effort to get Trump".

Dreeben insisted the special counsel's "investigative scope does cover the activity" in the indictment against Manafort.

The Virginia indictment alleges Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine from the Internal Revenue Service, money earned from 2006 through 2015. 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.

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, left, arrives with his attorney at a United States district court in Alexandria, Virginia, for a hearing on May 4.

Mueller seems to think his original charge is irrelevant, and that he can go beyond it and use his prosecutorial power to bring pressure on anyone he wants, in any way he wants, regardless of the matter's relevance to the Russian Federation investigation, if the end result is that it will yield him something he can use to damage the president. The special counsel has kept some of its power a secret for national security reasons.

Ellis said the government wanted Manafort, "the vernacular is, to sing".

But Ellis wasn't satisfied, charging the lawyer's answer showed he was "not really telling the truth" about the investigation. "C'mon, man!" said Ellis, when Dreeben didn't respond.

Ellis complained that the bulk of that August memo he has received was highly redacted. Manafort maintains his innocence. Ellis asked. "Tell me how".

Ellis has instructed Mueller's office to ask USA intelligence agencies to allow him to personally review a sealed, unredacted version of the memo.

The president noted that the judge asked prosecutors, "How does this have anything to do with the [Trump] campaign?"

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