Monday, 15 October, 2018

US Judge Says Mueller Prosecutes Manafort Only to Get to Trump

US Judge Says Mueller Prosecutes Manafort Only to Get to Trump US Judge Says Mueller Prosecutes Manafort Only to Get to Trump
Charlie Simmons | 06 May, 2018, 00:00

Just a few hours after U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis grilled Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team on how the indictment brought against Paul Manafort in Virginia is relevant to the Russian Federation probe, Trump tried to use Ellis' comments from the hearing to support his claim that the Russian Federation probe is a "witch hunt".

The bulk of Friday's questions by the judge were aimed squarely at Michael Dreeben, the deputy solicitor general who is now working in Mueller's office.

"You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment - or whatever", he said, according to Fox News.

The prosecutors argued that the redacted portions of the memo contain information unrelated to Manafort and touch on national security issues.

If Ellis chooses to let the case proceed, Manafort will face a trial on July 10. This probe was then absorbed into the Mueller investigation.

"I don't see what relationship this indictment has with what the special counsel is investigating", said Ellis, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Freeman derives this observation from the news reports" "The judge is not just searching for an explanation as to how the Manafort prosecution relates to Russian Federation and the 2016 election.

"Cover bank fraud in 2005 and 2007?"

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"I'm not saying it's illegitimate", Ellis said. "How does that have to do with links or coordination with Russian Federation and Trump?"

"The vernacular", he said "is to sing".

Dreeben also said the Justice Department has wide discretion to set its own rules for what should be considered the special counsel's jurisdiction, and that a judge has no role trying to regulate it.

"C'mon man!" Ellis reportedly exclaimed to Mueller's prosecutors, telling them later, "We don't want anyone with unfettered power". "It's unlikely you are going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited power", Ellis said. "The American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power".

Michael Dreeben, a deputy solicitor general working with Mueller, argued the special counsel's investigative scope covered the activity in the indictment.

But he questioned why the special counsel's team had pursued the charges against Mr. Manafort when it had referred allegations about the president's personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Manafort's attorney Downing indicated his support for such a move, which would end any leverage by the special counsel over his client.

Dreeben cited Rosenstein's August 2017 memo - covered by Andrew McCarthy in this NR column - explicitly granting Mueller the authority to investigate Manafort's Ukraine dealings years before the 2016 election. He said the full memo could be presented to him under seal, and would be withheld both from Manafort's defense team and the public. Manafort is facing criminal charges in Virginia of tax and bank fraud, and he's also facing criminal charges in Washington, DC, for failing to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine and conspiring to launder money, per Reuters. He is set to go to trial there September 17. The federal judge in Washington, Amy Berman Jackson, has not yet decided whether to drop the charges.

Lindh was tortured by U.S. forces, then brought home to face murder charges in the death of a Central Intelligence Agency agent killed by Taliban prisoners during an uprising. He has pleaded not guilty. Ellis, though, suggested another remedy would be to simply hand the case back to regular federal prosecutors.

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