Federal Judge Casts Doubt On Mueller's Case Against Manafort


The federal judge overseeing the criminal case in Virginia against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort questioned Friday why special counsel Robert Mueller brought the charges against Manafort. The hearing ended without a ruling, and Ellis didn't say when he would decide the matter in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty and disputes Mueller's assertion that he violated USA laws when he worked for a decade as a political consultant for pro-Russian groups in Ukraine.

While speaking to the NRA at a conference in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, Trump read out Ellis's remarks and said that he felt sympathy for Manafort, and agreed with Ellis about Mueller's motivation.

"You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment", Ellis added, according to The Washington Post.

Prosecutors countered in their own filing that an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government "would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs".

"I don't see how this indictment has anything to do with anything the special prosecutor is authorized to investigate", Ellis said at a hearing on a motion by Manafort to dismiss the case.

Whether Manafort colluded with Russian government officials as Russia was trying to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.

But this case, and all those subpoenas, are separate from charges he faces in Washington, D.C. Those were also brought by Mueller's office. Manafort's team won't have access to the unredacted version of the memo.

Under questioning from Ellis, government lawyers admitted that Manafort had been under investigation for years in the Eastern District of Virginia before Mueller was ever appointed special counsel. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

"So I would love to speak", he told reporters.

"We don't want anyone with unfettered power", Ellis said.

"I'll be the judge of that", Ellis said. "It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything her or she wants". But after the revelation that the team is using information from the earlier DOJ probe, Ellis said that information did not "arise" out of the special counsel probe - and therefore may not be within the scope of that investigation.

"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.

Legal experts questioned the judge's comments.

The three senators - Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Dick Durbin of IL and Patrick Leahy of Vermont - wrote a letter Friday to Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, expressing concern about a recent New York Times report quoting Ukrainian government officials saying its relationship with the USA and Trump administration is too valuable to jeopardize in any way.

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