Judge Openly Questions Mueller's Powers in Manafort Case, Accuses Team of 'Lying'


A federal judge on Friday upbraided special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team during a hearing for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, suggesting the attorneys lied about scope of the investigation, and the true purpose of the prosecution, which is to bring down President Donald Trump.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told Mueller’s team, Fox News reported. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”

Ellis, appointed to the Eastern District of Virginia federal bench by President Ronald Reagan, pressed Mueller prosecutor Michael Dreeben about how the charges brought against Manafort — stemming back over a decade — can legitimately be tied to the special counsel’s mandate to investigate Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

“Our investigative scope does cover the activity” in the indictment, Dreeben told the judge.

“Cover bank fraud in 2005 and 2007? Tell me how!” Ellis retorted.

Speculation Runs Wild After Michelle Obama Joins Clintons, Biden Alone on Air Force One

Ellis demanded to see an unredacted “scope memo,” a document outlining the scope of the special counsel’s probe, which congressional Republicans have also sought. “We don’t want anyone with unfettered power,” he said.

Mueller’s team indicated its powers are laid out in multiple documents, including the “scope memo,” but some of their powers are secret because they involve ongoing investigations and national security matters, which cannot be made public.

Ellis did not find that answer satisfactory.

He summed up Dreeben’s position: “We said this was what (the) investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying.”

Do you agree with the judge that the prosecution of Manafort is really about getting to Trump?

“Come on, man!” the judge exclaimed.

Ellis gave the government two weeks to hand over an unredacted “scope memo” or give him an credible explanation why not.

When prosecutors said the redacted portions did not have to do with the Manafort case, Ellis replied, “I’ll be the judge of that.”

The judge further stated the 18-count indictment, involving both bank fraud and tax offenses against Manafort, seems clearly meant to assert leverage over the 2016 Trump campaign chair, Reuters reported.

“The vernacular is to sing,” Ellis said.

Charles Koch, Republican Megadonors Pick Their Choice Against Donald Trump in GOP Primary

He questioned Dreeben why the matter was not handed over federal prosecutors outside the Russia probe, as was the case with Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Dreeben declined to discuss the Cohen case, but stated Mueller’s investigation into Manafort was authorized by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Manafort is seeking to have all the charges brought against him by the special counsel dismissed, arguing Mueller’s team has exceeded its mandate.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Randy DeSoto has written more than 2,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith