A federal judge has rebuked the special counsel investigating alleged collusion between Trump aides and Russian Federation, for overstepping his bounds in a criminal case against the president's former campaign manager.
A federal judge sharply criticized the special-counsel prosecution of Paul Manafort in court this afternoon, accusing Robert Mueller's team of attempting to unseat the president by proxy.
Manafort faces an even broader array of charges pending in a separate but related case in Washington, D.C., where he is scheduled to go on trial in September.
Manafort is charged with tax and bank fraud. 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. "Whether prosecutors brought the case to flip Manafort is entirely irrelevant".
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.
Mueller has no business prosecuting someone for matters completely unrelated to alleged Russian collusion. Manafort's team won't have access to the unredacted version of the memo. Ellis repeatedly interrupted Dreeben as he pressed for an explanation of Mueller's authority.
'You really care about wanting information you could get from Mr. Manafort that would relate to Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution, or impeachment, or whatever, ' Ellis said. 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.
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud", Ellis told Dreeben. The memo explained that the special counsel had been told to investigate if Manafort was "colluding with Russian government officials" in the 2016 election meddling.
Manafort and his legal team are specifically looking for the judge in Alexandria, Virginia, to dismiss the latter indictment because it is not related to Mueller's Russian Federation investigation and exceeds the special counsel's authority.
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.
Instead, Ellis reportedly tried several times to have the Mueller lawyers say the charges were instead meant to have Manafort "sing", or testify, against Trump in some way.
"This indictment didn't arise from your investigation", Ellis said.
"I'll be the judge of that", Ellis said. She has also not yet ruled on the motion.
"Your argument is that this is the scope of the investigation but we really didn't mean it and we weren't required to disclose it", Ellis said.
Echoing Cramer's view that prosecutors build cases all the time against powerful figures by prosecuting lower-level actors who then cooperate, Whiting said "most people would agree that's what we want prosecutors to do: focus their work on higher-level criminal actors".