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Judge Wants to See Unredacted Memos Directing Mueller Probe

05 May 2018

At NRA convention in Dallas, President Trump quotes U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III's rebuke of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team during a hearing for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud".

Mueller, 69, stands accused of financial crimes arising from his consulting work in Ukraine, but his legal team wants the case dismissed because it has nothing to do with the investigation into alleged Russian Federation government collusion in the 2016 presidential campaign.

In appointing Mueller that month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave him broad authority not only to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated" with the Trump campaign, but also to examine "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation".

He also sent Mueller a memo in August outlining the full scope of his authority.

The Reagan appointee also suggested that the Mueller Team is pressuring or leveraging Manafort to flip on Trump, Politico noted.

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Ellis notes that the evidence gathered on Manafort has nothing to do with the special counsel probe, and that the Department of Justice had most of it before they began investigating the 2016 Trump campaign.

In Washington, Manafort faces counts of conspiracy to launder more than $30 million, making false statements, failing to follow lobbying disclosure laws and working as an unregistered foreign agent.

None of the charges relate, however, to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign or possible collusion with Russian Federation.

The judge questioned why Manafort's case there could not be handled by the USA attorney's office in Virginia, rather than the special counsel's office.

Former Justice Department veterans were confounded by the comment and said it has no bearing on the validity of the case against Manafort.

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"I'm sure you're pretty sensitive to the fact that the American people feel no one should have unfettered power", Ellis said.

"I've been saying that for a long time", Trump said. If a judge throws out the one substantial and serviceable indictment he's produced over ethical questions, it will undermine Mueller's reputation and that of his investigation, perhaps fatally in terms of prompting congressional intervention against Donald Trump.

"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud", Ellis told Dreeben.

"Your argument is that this is the scope of the investigation but we really didn't mean it and we weren't required to disclose it", Ellis said. The other, brought in Virginia, charges him with tax fraud, bank fraud, and failing to report foreign bank accounts.

The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), and U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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Asha Rangappa, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent, characterized Ellis' remarks about prosecutors aiming to get Manafort to flip as "bizarre commentary".

Judge Wants to See Unredacted Memos Directing Mueller Probe