Judge to Mueller: Show Me the Mandate

At a tense hearing on May 4 in Alexandria, Virginia, Judge T.S. Ellis III stated that tax- and bank-fraud charges against Manafort had nothing to do with Mueller's probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian Federation during the 2016 US election or tried to obstruct justice.

"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud", Ellis told Dreeben. Ellis said prosecutors were interested in Manafort because of his potential to provide material that would lead to Trump's "prosecution or impeachment".

Ellis said the indictment appeared to be a way for Mueller to leverage Manafort into providing information about Trump. The judge put it another way, saying the special counsel set out to "turn the screws and get the information you really want".

Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington in November.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort laundered payments from Ukraine and failed to properly register.

"I'll be the judge", Ellis said.

Ellis agreed, emphasizing that some of the charges involve purported conduct that occurred over a decade ago.

After Dreeben used three attempts to argue the government's case against dismissing the indictment, Ellis, who admitted he "is not a fan of football", used a phrase popular on the sports channel ESPN.

He quoted the Wall Street Journal's headline, "Judge Questions Mueller's Authority to Prosecute Manafort", and the headline run by CNN, "Judge in Manafort case says Mueller's aim is to hurt Trump".

"It's what I've been saying for a long time, it's a witch hunt", Trump told the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Dallas, Texas.

Friday's hearing is the third time Manafort's lawyers have tried to have the charges leveled against him dismissed.

Ellis withheld ruling on the motion and will issue a written decision at a later date.

Manafort is also facing a separate indictment in the District of Columbia, where the special counsel has brought the bulk of charges.

Why is Manafort in court?

"Our investigation has considerably advanced and deepened our understanding" of Manafort's actions, he said.

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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.

"It would make no sense for the facts to be conveyed publicly", he argued. Hopefully the courts will do that, because it's clear that Rod Rosenstein will not. "Team Mueller doesn't want to tell him". Significant sections remain classified.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller departing Capitol Hill.

Judge Ellis doesn't find what he's looking for in the May 2017 memo by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.

The memo must point to a specific crime to justify investigation into Trump and his campaign.

During the oral arguments, Ellis repeatedly chided Mueller's $10 million budget. "The American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power".

Dreeben countered that the special counsel is part of the Justice Department and thus subject to oversight that addresses such concerns.

Mueller is torturing Manafort through these indictments without appropriate authority.

"We don't want anyone with unfettered power".

If Paul Manafort committed bank fraud that's worthy of prosecution, let Mueller refer that to the Justice Department proper and then stick to the matter he was appointed to deal with.

Ellis said prosecutors may present the full classified memo to him under seal - without showing Manafort its additional details - in two weeks. "But in the meantime, he probes counsel and does so thoroughly".

Manafort has been charged in Virginia with tax and bank fraud.

Hannity also said a battle is ensuing over the rule of law and prominence of the Constitution.

But he asked why a run-of-the-mill bank fraud case with no "reference to any Russian individual or Russian bank" could not be handed over to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia. Ellis's statements suggested he may believe Mueller has exceeded his mandate.

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