Although Mueller's authority has been tested in court before, Friday's hearing was notable for District Judge T.S. Ellis' decision to wade into the divisive political debate around the investigation.
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud," Ellis said to prosecutor Michael Dreeben, at times losing his temper. 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.
"That's what you're really interested in," said Ellis, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.
Ellis repeated his suspicion several times in the hour-long court hearing. He said he'll make a decision at a later date about whether Manafort's case can go forward.
"We don't want anyone in this country with unfettered power. 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 American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power."
When Dreeben answered Ellis' question about how the investigation and its charges date back to before the Trump campaign formed, the judge shot back, "None of that information has to do with information related to Russian government coordination and the campaign of Donald Trump."
At one point, Ellis posed a hypothetical question, speaking as if he were the prosecutor, about why Mueller's office referred a criminal investigation about Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen to New York authorities and kept the Manafort case in Virginia.
They weren't interested in it because it didn't "further our core effort to get Trump," Ellis said, mimicking a prosecutor in the case.
Prosecutors to turn over Rosenstein memo
The judge said he would like to see the full memo, which prosecutors submitted to the court in Virginia and in Washington, DC, for another case against Manafort with more than a page of redactions.
The visible part of the memo says Mueller should investigate allegations about Manafort's financial relationship with former Ukrainian politicians, and that he may have assisted Russia with attempts to interfere in the presidential election. The redacted portion appears to outline several other legs of the ongoing Russia probe.
Ellis said prosecutors may present the full classified memo to him under seal -- without showing Manafort its additional details -- in two weeks.
Mueller's prosecutors have argued this memo gives them the authority to bring cases against Manafort related to his work in Ukraine reaching back more than a decade before he joined the Trump campaign.
Manafort lost civil suit on similar complaint
Manafort is charged in Virginia with financial violations related to his lobbying work in Ukraine prior to joining Trump's 2016 campaign. Dreeben said they had to "follow the money" and find Manafort's contacts with Russians through the Ukrainian work and his financial dealings as part of their investigation.
DC District Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed that lawsuit, saying a civil case was "not the appropriate vehicle" for objecting to either past or future actions by a prosecutor.
Manafort faces five charges in the case brought by Mueller's prosecutors in DC federal court, including money laundering and foreign lobbying violations.
Source link : https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/04/politics/paul-manafort-hearing/index.html
Publish date : 2018-05-04 15:29:15