Judge Accuses Mueller Team of Prosecuting Manafort to Get Info on Trump

Judge Accuses Mueller Team of Prosecuting Manafort to Get Info on Trump”

Lawyers working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III have in response revealed some details of the secretive probe, including portions of a memorandum authorizing Mueller to investigate whether Manafort illegally coordinated with Russian Federation in 2016.

Dreeben said the investigations were "folded together with our overall examination of Mr. Manafort's conduct", and he was indicted based on information developed by Mueller as they followed the trail of money that left Ukraine.

Ellis also said that he thought that what Manafort was being accused of was beyond the scope of Mueller's legal authority.

Asha Rangappa, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent, characterized Ellis' remarks about prosecutors aiming to get Manafort to flip as "bizarre commentary".

"I don't see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate", Ellis told prosecutors working for Mueller.

That challenge led Mueller's team to include a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the probe following Attorney General Jeff Sessions's recusal a year ago. The Virginia case charges him with offences including tax and bank fraud.

Ellis later quipped: "The vernacular is 'to sing'".

During the hearing in Alexandria, Manafort's lawyers fought to dismiss an 18-count indictment - saying the charges go far beyond Mueller's mandate to probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion.

The judge also directly challenged the scope of Mueller's probe, which has been questioned by not only Manafort's attorneys but Trump and many Republican lawmakers.

Ellis appeared receptive, at least in part, to the argument. In motions filed in March, Manafort's attorneys claimed Mueller's charges had gone well outside what the Justice Department had tasked him to probe almost ago.

Most of the charges against Manafort relate to his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian interests. Breeden said the Manafort case is different.

"When Mueller came across Manafort's illicit activities, he had two choices", Cramer said.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, echoed that view.

Mueller overstepped his authority by charging Manafort with crimes unrelated to collusion with Russian Federation.

"The American people feel pretty strongly about no one having unfettered power".

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.

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". Manafort served as Trump's campaign chief for five months before resigning amid news reports that he had received secret cash payments for his Ukraine consulting.

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