A federal judge on Friday asked pointed questions about special counsel Robert Mueller's authority to bring charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and suggested that prosecutors' true motive is getting Manafort to "sing" against the president.
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud", Ellis told Dreeben.
Ellis said prosecutors were interested in Manafort because of his potential to provide material that would lead to Trump's "prosecution or impeachment", Ellis said. He was appointed to the bench in Virginia by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
Manafort's lawyers made similar arguments to have the D.C. case dismissed as well.
Dreeben insisted the special counsel's "investigative scope does cover the activity" in the indictment against Manafort.
On the stage at the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas, Trump read headlines from news stories on Friday's hearing on Manafort's motion to dismiss the federal grand jury indictment against him in Virginia. As James Freeman puts it in his Best of the Web column this afternoon, Judge Ellis "is old enough to remember when Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation was about alleged Russian collusion".
The hearing became heated when it was revealed that at least some information derived from an earlier Justice Department probe. "It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything her or she wants". "The American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power". He has pleaded not guilty.
Ellis called out Mueller's lawyers on their motive in prosecuting Manafort for crimes that allegedly occurred long before the 2016 campaign.
He directed Mueller's office to take two weeks to consult with USA intelligence agencies to see if they will sign off so that he can personally review a sealed, unredacted version of the memo. The redacted portion appears to outline several other legs of the ongoing Russian Federation probe.
"Judge Ellis has high expectations from counsel on both sides of any issue", said Timothy Belevetz, a former prosecutor in the Eastern District now with the firm Holland & Knight.
The president noted that the judge asked prosecutors, "How does this have anything to do with the [Trump] campaign?" But he has yet to be charged by the special counsel for anything related to Russia's interference in the 2016 election to prop up Trump's candidacy. Dreeben said they had to "follow the money" and find Manafort's contacts with Russians through the Ukrainian work and his financial dealings as part of their investigation.
"But he's out there fighting on fake news CNN - I think NBC may be more distorted and worse but - no, but on cnn they have a headline 'Judge in Manafort Case Says Mueller's Aim Is to Hurt Trump'". In motions filed in March, Manafort's attorneys claimed Mueller's charges had gone well outside what the Justice Department had tasked him to probe almost ago.
Manafort has been indicted in two separate federal jurisdictions, first in the District of Columbia, relating to failure to register as a foreign agent (for the government of Ukraine), and in Virginia, for a series of bank fraud, conspiracy, income tax fraud and failure to report overseas bank accounts.