Nice to see not all judges are partisan and some are starting to wake up and sounding the alarm.
Yesterday a Federal judge in Virginia expressed alarming skepticism about the actions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in the bank fraud case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. To the point that he even said what everyone has known from day one, that he believes that Mueller’s motivation is to oust President Donald Trump from office.
This all went down at a tense hearing in a federal court in Virginia on Friday where U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III sharply questioned whether Mueller exceeded his authority in filing tax and bank fraud charges against Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort since all he was supposed to be doing is investigating Russian collision between the Trump Campaign and the Kremlin.
“The vernacular is to sing,” Ellis said.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” the judge said. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead to Mr. Trump” and his eventual prosecution or impeachment.
“It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unfettered power to do whatever he wants,” Ellis, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, said at a hearing on Manafort’s motion to dismiss the Virginia charges.”
Ellis later added that it appeared that with these charges Mueller and company are trying to bully Manafort into flipping on Trump and giving them information which could be used against the president.
Manafort served as Trump’s campaign manager for five months and also faces federal charges in Washington. Where he is being accused of conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent when he lobbied for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government. Something which Democrat Party operatives do regularly but get away with it.
Manfort previously lost a civil suit making similar complaints about the special counsel’s investigation last week. Manafort had filed a lawsuit in Washington claiming Rosenstein and Mueller exceeded their authority in charging him with alleged crimes he said had nothing to do with the 2016 campaign. 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.
Here is more on this story via Reuters:
“A WITCH HUNT”
Trump enthusiastically read the judge’s comments out loud to his audience during a speech to the National Rifle Association in Dallas, saying they echoed his longstanding views. He called Ellis “a very respected person.”
“I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a witch hunt,” he said of Mueller’s probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia and whether it colluded with Russians to interfere in the 2016 election.
He also distanced himself from Manafort, calling him a nice guy but saying “he worked for me for a very short period of time.”
The sharp tone of the judge’s comments could spell trouble for Mueller’s case against Manafort and put even greater pressure on Rosenstein to rein in the Russia investigation.
But several legal experts cautioned against reading too much into the comments.
“I think there are some judges that believe that in being evenhanded, they should give the winner a hard time, too,” said James Trusty, a former federal prosecutor now with the law firm Ifrah Law. “At the end of the day, it’s very dangerous to read the tea leaves from comments from the bench.”
Lisa Kern Griffin, a professor at Duke University School of Law and a former federal prosecutor, said it is unlikely Ellis will dismiss the charges against Manafort because bringing them was “almost certainly” within Mueller’s broad authority.
If Ellis dismissed the charges, they would likely be reinstated by an appeals court, Griffin said. “I think Judge Ellis may just be putting to the government through its paces,” she said. “That is not uncommon.”
The hearing on Friday was the third time Manafort has tried to get charges against him dismissed. A civil case alleging the Justice Department’s order appointing Mueller was overly broad was tossed last month.
He also asked for dismissal of the Washington-based criminal charges on similar legal grounds, but there has not been a ruling.
Ellis did not rule on the motion to dismiss on Friday.
Ellis asked why a run-of-the-mill bank fraud case with no “reference to any Russian individual or Russian bank” could not be handed over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia.
As an example, he pointed to the FBI probe into Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and said the special counsel had turned that matter over to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
Dreeben declined to discuss the Cohen case.
Ellis also complained that the bulk of that August memo he received was highly redacted. He told Mueller’s office to take two weeks to consult with U.S. intelligence agencies to see whether they would sign off so that he can personally review a sealed, unredacted version of the memo.
Dreeben told him the redacted portions did not pertain to the Manafort case.
“I’ll be the judge,” Ellis said.