Yesterday we told you about an intense courtroom battle that played out on Friday between the judge in Paul Manafort's case and an attorney for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in which the judge said that Mueller shouldn't have "unfettered power" to prosecute Manafort for charges that have nothing to do with collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Manafort's lawyers had asked the judge in the Virginia case to dismiss an indictment filed against him in what was their third effort to beat back criminal charges by attacking Mueller’s authority. In addition to pushing back against the Special Counsel's argument for why Manafort's bank fraud charges are related to the Russia investigation, the judge also questioned why Manafort’s case could not be handled by the U.S. attorney’s office in Virginia, rather than the Special Counsel’s office, as it is not Russia-related.
Today, a transcript of that hearing was leaked to Twitter user @Techno_Fog, a New York attorney who eloquently dissected the intense back-and-forth between Eastern District of Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis, a Reagan appointee, and Mueller attorney Michael Dreeben.
The transcript reveals an unimpressed Ellis repeatedly pushing back against Dreeben's attempts to tie Manafort's bank fraud case to Russia, while an arrogant Dreeben suggests that the power vested in Ellis is dwarfed by the Special Counsel's omnipotence.
Ellis then calls out the case as an attempt by Mueller to gain leverage over Manafort.
"You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That's what you're really interested in." -Judge Ellis
Ellis then points out to Dreeben that the Special Counsel's indictment against Manafort doesn't mention:
(1) Russian individuals
(2) Russian banks
(3) Russian money
(4) Russian payments to Manafort
To which Dreeben looped back to the argument that "the money that forms the basis for the criminal charges" comes from Manafort's "Ukraine activities," which is tied to Manafort's Russia activities (which still doesn't answer the Judge's question).
Manafort's attorney hit back, calling the Special Counsel's arguments "absolutely erroneous."
Ellis has given prosecutors two weeks to show what evidence they have that Manafort was complicit in colluding with the Russians. If they can't come up with any, he may, presumably, dismiss the case. Ellis also asked the special counsel’s office to share privately with him a copy of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein’s August 2017 memo elaborating on the scope of Mueller’s Russia probe. He said the current version he has been heavily redacted.
Uh-oh precedence if this gets dismissed.... The Judge may single handedly end the cat and mouse games by the special council and would make it much harder for Muller to turn any other parties to his side (because all charges are unrelated to...