May 5, 2018

Well! Isn't that special. A federal judge who apparently has never seen a public corruption or organized crime trial. Via Bloomberg:

U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III expressed deep skepticism Friday about whether Mueller went too far in signing a bank- and tax-fraud indictment against Manafort. Ellis questioned how Mueller could prosecute financial crimes dating back a decade without charging Manafort for his election activities.

“I don’t see how this indictment has anything to do with anything the special prosecutor is authorized to investigate,” Ellis said at a hearing on a motion by Manafort to dismiss the case. The hearing ended without a ruling, and Ellis didn’t say when he would decide the matter in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

The judge’s unusually provocative remarks and questions don’t necessarily indicate how he will rule, but they put Mueller’s team on the defensive. The special counsel’s office was given two weeks to deliver an unredacted version of a Justice Department memo authorizing Mueller’s work.

[...] Ellis said it appeared that prosecutors were using the indictment of Manafort to pressure him to cooperate against Trump. Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty and disputes Mueller’s assertion that he violated U.S. laws when he worked for a decade as a political consultant for pro-Russian groups in Ukraine.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” Ellis told four prosecutors working for Mueller. “You really care about what information he might give you about Mr. Trump and what might lead to his impeachment or prosecution.”

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