A judge sharply questioned whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller overstepped his authority by charging Paul Manafort with crimes unrelated to Russian election interference while also suggesting that the onetime Trump campaign chairman was indicted to coerce his cooperation against the president.
A federal judge attacked Robert Mueller's expansive Russian Federation probe on Friday during a hearing related to Paul Manafort's charges of tax and bank fraud.
The letter also includes questions the senators have about Mr. Lutsenko's office allegedly preventing the issuing of subpoenas to collect evidence and interview witnesses in four open cases related to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The judge believed that the special counsel's team may have brought the charges against Manafort in order to get him to flip against the president.
Manafort is also facing a broader indictment in the District of Columbia, where the special counsel has brought the bulk of charges.
A Mueller prosecutor insisted that the team had not exceeded its mandate.
Manafort faces numerous charges, including money laundering and failing to register as an agent of a foreign country, for his work as a lobbyist on behalf of a Russia-back Ukrainian political party.
Government lawyers admitted that Manafort had been investigated for years in the Eastern District of Virginia before Mueller was ever appointed as special counsel. 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.
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud", District Judge T.S. Ellis said to prosecutor Michael Dreeben, at times losing his temper. "What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment".
Trump noted that the judge asked prosecutors how the charges brought against Manafort - which stem from his work in Ukraine before the 2016 election - were relevant to the core of the Russian Federation probe and that the judge hypothesized that prosecutors only went after Manafort to secure his cooperation for other parts of the probe.
Judge T.S. Ellis III said said Mueller should not have "unfettered power" in his Russian Federation probe.
The judge's concerns suggest that he could side with Manafort and his legal team, who have argued that the charges handed down by Mueller are not valid because they are not directly tied to Russian collusion.
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. The judge appeared impatient with Dreeben, who has argued more than 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Jurisdiction is one thing, but malicious prosecution - which Ellis seems to be accusing Mueller of doing - can occur within proper jurisdiction, too.
"It covers bank fraud in 2005 and 2007?" He worked for me for a very short period of time. "It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants", Ellis told Dreeben.
Ellis withheld ruling on dismissal of the indictment. "It arose from the pre-existing investigation".
At one point, he expressed derision for Breeden's argument that he couldn't fully explain all the reasons for how the special counsel proceeded. Trump said he was given a copy of the story before he took the stage.
Mueller is torturing Manafort through these indictments without appropriate authority.
Breeden said he wouldn't say how much Mueller had spent of his $10 million budget.
"We had him in 2014", one of the former officials said.
"We are not operating with unfettered power", Breeden replied.
Ellis added that he found it suspicious that Mueller was insisting on having Manafort stand trial in Virginia, while the NY courts were being allowed to try Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on their own.
Ellis accused special prosecutors essentially of extorting testimony from Manafort.
Manafort is set to go on trial in the Virginia case on July 10, and in the Washington case on September 17.