Judge in Manafort case pushes back on prosecutors

Robert Mueller Paul Manafort blank subpoenas

Judge Wants to See Unredacted Memos Directing Mueller Probe

A federal judge on Friday asked pointed questions about special counsel Robert Mueller's authority to bring charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and suggested that prosecutors' true motive is getting Manafort to "sing" against the president.

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U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III grilled the special counsel's team for almost an hour, questioning their "unfettered power" to prosecute and their desire to "tighten the screws" on Manafort, according to NBC's Ken Dilanian. 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.

"We are the Justice Department", Dreeben said of the special counsel's office.

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A federal judge has accused special counsel Robert Mueller of seeking the "prosecution or impeachment" of President Donald Trump.

Dreeben said the Justice Department granted Mueller the authority to investigate "links and possible coordination of individuals" associated both with the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, and this made delving into Manafort's past financial transactions relevant.

"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud", Ellis told four prosecutors working for Mueller.

While Dreeben tried three times to argue the government's case against dismissing the indictment, at one point the judge - who said he is "not a fan of football" referenced a sports show in which one commentator is known for saying, "Come on man" to his fellow announcers" suggestions -- said, "I understand your argument, but "Come on, man'".

Mr. Mueller's team was in court today trying to advance its tax and bank fraud charges against Paul Manafort, who briefly ran the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.

He asked the special counsel's office to share privately with him a copy of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein's August 2017 memo elaborating on the scope of Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.

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. Judge Amy Berman Jackson had dismissed a civil suit over the issue of Mueller's jurisdiction, but pointedly not on the merits of the complaint.

Manafort has been the subject of a long-running investigation over his dealings in Ukraine several years ago - for which he didn't file as a foreign agent until June 2017.

"So I would love to speak", he told reporters. She reportedly was said to have damaging information on Trump's campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, which was "part of Russian Federation and its government's support for Mr. Trump".

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

"We just want the full scope, your honor".

Legal experts questioned the judge's comments.

"What we don't want in this country, we don't want anyone with unfettered power", he said.

The FBI's top brass, both of the former officials said, deemed Manafort's suspected financial crimes as too petty: They amounted to only tens of millions of dollars - small potatoes compared to what Manafort's boss, Yanukovych, was suspected of stealing.

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