USA judge questions special counsel's powers in Manafort case

06 May, 2018, 00:04 | Author: Jason Torres
  • Paul Manafort President Trump's former campaign chairman leaves the federal courthouse in Washington in November

"You really care about getting information Mr Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment". Manafort headed Trump's campaign for about five months.

"I don't see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate", Ellis, a 77-year-old Reagan appointee, declared at the hearing, reports Politico.

Manafort had filed a lawsuit in Washington claiming Rosenstein and Mueller exceeded their authority in charging him with alleged crimes he said had nothing to do with the 2016 campaign.

"So I don't think there's any kind of fatal damage in the works here, but this is certainly not a good day for the Mueller office", Toobin said.

"You have a group of investigators that are so Democratic. they went to Hillary Clinton's celebration which turned out to be a funeral", Trump said.

The judge added that the court doesn't want anyone to have "unfettered power".

But the judge did question why an investigation into Trump attorney Michael Cohen was handed over to federal prosecutors in NY while the Manafort case was kept with the special counsel.

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.

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Dreeben also referred to an August memorandum from Rosenstein authorizing Mueller to investigate whether Manafort illegally coordinated with Russian Federation in 2016.

Asked to explain why Rosenstein's May 2017 order outlining the scope of the investigation did not reveal all the details, the special counsel lawyer said it was because the material involved sensitive national security and counterintelligence matters. "It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants", Ellis told Dreeben.

The judge's stern words pleased President Trump, who was in Dallas, Texas, to address the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention.

Government lawyers admitted that Manafort had been investigated for years in the Eastern District of Virginia before Mueller was ever appointed as special counsel.

Trump also told the crowd, "We're all fighting battles, but I love fighting these battles". "But I love fightin' these battles", Trump said.

However, Ellis pointed out that the team is using information from the Department of Justice's earlier probe on the matter and hinted that said information may be outside of the scope of Mueller's probe because it did not "arise" there. He did not find the power to prosecute Mueller in the May 2017 appointment order, which directed him to pursue links between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, as well as "any matter that arose or may arise directly" from the investigation. In the most recent filing, they argued that the Mueller investigation has provided no evidence of contact or communications between Manafort and any Russian officials, and therefore has "no lawful authority or jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute" Manafort. Trial is tentatively scheduled for July 10. Mr. Manafort's lawyers are seeking to dismiss those charges on the same basis.

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