05 May, 2018
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".
Now the judge wants to know why Mr. Mueller's signature prosecution doesn't appear to have anything to do with it.
During a hearing in which Manafort was seeking the dismissal of one of the two indictments against him in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, Ellis speculated that prosecutors had charged him to get him to flip against Trump. 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.
The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), and U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). "What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment". It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants.
The Virginia indictment alleges Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine from the Internal Revenue Service, all occurring years before Donald Trump ran for president. 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 US laws when he worked for a decade as a political consultant for pro-Russian groups in Ukraine. Manafort claimed that Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went beyond their power, as the charges had nothing to do with the 2016 Presidential election. He said the current version he has has been heavily redacted.
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"Reading from an article on Ellis' remarks, Trump said: "'None of that information has to do with information related to the Russian government coordination and the campaign of Donald Trump'. "It's a witch hunt", Trump said. Then how does this have anything to do with the campaign, the judge asks?
"We're all fighting", the President added.
The judge suggested the real reason Mueller is pursuing Manafort is to pressure him to "sing" against the president, though he also acknowledged that such a strategy is a "time-honored practice" for prosecutors.
Ellis also said that he thought that what Manafort was being accused of was beyond the scope of Mueller's legal authority.
"So I would love to speak", he told reporters.