Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis III was hearing a motion brought by the attorney for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, seeking the dismissal of his indictment for bank fraud on the grounds that such charges were outside the scope of Mueller's investigative authority.
A federal judge in Virginia on Friday sharply questioned the motivations of Special Counsel Robert Mueller 3rd's fraud prosecution of President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, saying it was aimed at getting him to provide evidence against the president.
Friday's hearing was called to weigh Manafort's motion to dismiss one of the two indictments Mueller's office has brought against him.
Continuing to read from the article, Trump said "none of that information has to do with information related to the Russian government coordination and the campaign of Donald Trump".
Ellis expressed his concern with past independent investigations and asked how Manafort's case could connect to Russian influence in the 2016 USA presidential election.
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud", said Ellis, who is known for being combative with attorneys in his courtroom.
"How does this have anything to do with the campaign?" Ellis asked. "Tell me how". When Dreeben said Manafort had been in contact with individuals in Ukraine who are affiliated with Russia and pro-Russian interests, Ellis accused Dreeben of "running away from my question".
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Mueller's prosecutors have argued this memo gives them the authority to bring cases against Manafort related to his work in Ukraine.
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 NY authorities and kept the Manafort case in Virginia.
Manafort has denied wrongdoing.
"We needed to understand and explore those relationships and follow the money where it led", Dreeben said. "Little period of time", Trump said, adding that Manafort had also worked for Reagan, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Senator John McCain.
In his comments on May 4, the judge suggested, a possible remedy would be to hand the case against Manafort back to regular federal prosecutors rather than the special counsel.
Dreeben responded in court that the Manafort investigation has expanded significantly since it was taken over by Mueller. Prosecutors say that part of the conspiracy stretched from 2015 through January 2017, including the months while he was working on the Trump campaign.
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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.
Whether Manafort colluded with Russian government officials as Russia was trying to meddle in the 2016 United States election.
"I've been saying that for a long time".
Though he faces another criminal case in DC federal court, Manafort refused the prosecutors' earlier request to move these charges out of Ellis' district and combine them with the DC case.
Ellis ordered Mueller's team on Friday to turn over an unredacted copy of Rosenstein's memo to the court under seal within two weeks.
If Ellis dismissed the charges, they would likely be reinstated by an appeals court, Griffin said. But in the event that he does, the United States attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia will likely pick up the thread. The tax division and national security division signed off on the Manafort indictment, he said. "They've got him cold".
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