On the 4th of May 2018, the US Government attorneys for the FBI’s Trump -Russia probe regarding their case against Paul Manafort, faced their first serious push back from the Virginia federal Justice T. S. Ellis III. The Defense team for the republican President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort have presented arguments along the lines that the charges in the government’s indictment are are an example of its overreach as the charges do not relate specifically to Russian collusion; and that the charges for financial crimes dating back to 2005 and 2007 seem to be far afield from having anything to do with the president’s campaign team colluding with Russia in its attack on the US elections infrastructure in 2016.
Justice T. S. Ellis III appeared to accuse the government’s legal team of pursuing financial crime charges against Mr. Manafort, just to force him to flip on his boss. He was questioning the Special Counsel Robert Mueller III lack of discretion in the use of his unfettered powers.
The judge may not have been persuaded about how these charges against Paul Manafort relate to his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian interests over a lengthy period of years.
It is my opinion that the government’s prosecutors need to loop the judge into the reality that Mr. Manafort did not go to work on the president’s team for no pay out of a deep belief in his boss’s bona fides but to use this position to curry favor with Russian and Ukranian officials to benefit himself, financially. In short, Mr. Manafort has been a bad actor in his own right, irrespective of whatever the president has done. Of course, the government’s prosecutes want Mr. Manafort to flip as this is part of their job. Because Mr. Manafort has blood on his hands, he may not be in a position to where he can afford to be turned.
Because the Department of Justice’s Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein specifically authorized the FBI’s lead investigator in the Trump-Russia probe, Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, to pursue criminal charges against Paul Manafort arising from his past lobbying work with Ukraine and pro-Russian interests, and because these indictments are the fruits of this inquiry, I do not believe Judge Ellis will end up dismissing the charges against Paul Manafort.
But this detail will not prevent the president’s supporters from making heyday over the judge’s comments.
The FBI’s Trump-Russia probe headed by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller III has been pursuing criminal indictments against the republican President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort for bank and tax fraud in the Virginia courts stemming from his Ukrainian/ Russian ties. This is also true of the second indictment being undertaken by the US Justice Department against Paul Manafort in the District of Columbia that accuses him of money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent and for making false statements to investigators.
According to a 5/4/18 VOX report by Andrew Prokop, “Brandi Buchman of Courthouse News reports that (Judge Ellis) asked to review an unredacted copy of a memo from last August, in which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate crimes related to Manafort’s Ukraine work. Mueller’s team revealed the memo’s existence in court filings, but the vast majority of it is redacted.”
As per a 5/4/18 Business Insider report Sonam Sheth, “Manafort is currently the target of two indictments from the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.”
“One, which was brought in Washington, DC, accuses him of money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, and making false statements to investigators. The other, which was brought in Virginia, charges him with tax fraud, bank fraud, and failing to report foreign bank accounts. Most of the charges against Manafort relate to his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian interests.”
“Earlier this year, it surfaced that Rosenstein also sent a memo to Mueller in August 2017 outlining the full scope of his mandate.”
“Per the memo, Mueller is authorized to investigate two broad threads related to Manafort:”
- “Whether he colluded with Russian government officials as Russia was trying to meddle in the 2016 US election.”
- “Whether he committed any crimes “arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych.”
“Prosecutors added that they also had additional authority that they could not disclose in the courtroom because it related to ongoing investigations and could affect national security.”
Here is the rest of the story…
On May 4, 2018, Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times penned the following report, ‘Judge Questions Whether Mueller Has Overstepped His Authority on Manafort’
“A federal judge in Virginia sharply challenged the special counsel’s case against Paul Manafort on Friday (5/4/18), suggesting that prosecutors had pursued fraud charges in hopes of gaining evidence that might incriminate President Trump or even topple him from office.”
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” Judge T. S. Ellis III said during a court hearing in Alexandria, according to published reports. “You really care about getting information that Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.”
“Mr. Trump immediately seized upon the judge’s comments as proof that the special counsel is out of control. In a speech on Friday afternoon to the National Rifle Association in Dallas, he cited the judge’s critique. “I’ve been saying that for a long time,” he said. “It’s a witch hunt.”
“The judge’s unfriendly reception was a new turn of events for Mr. Mueller’s team, which has faced little or no confrontation during court hearings. Other Americans charged by the special counsel have pleaded guilty and most have agreed to cooperate with the prosecutors. But Mr. Manafort has mounted a vigorous defense against financial fraud and other charges, contending that Mr. Mueller has gone beyond his mandate.”
“Judge Ellis, 77, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, seemed sympathetic to that argument. He said that the criminal activity described in the indictment “manifestly has nothing to do with the campaign” or Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Some of the allegations, he noted, date to 2005 and 2007.”
“I don’t see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is investigating,” he said during an hourlong hearing on a defense motion to dismiss the charges. “I’m sure you’re sensitive to the fact that the American people feel pretty strongly about no one having unfettered power.”
“Mr. Mueller was appointed a year ago by the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to investigate Russia’s election interference, possible links to the Trump campaign and “federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.”
“Michael Dreeben, a prosecutor in the special counsel’s office, told the judge that Mr. Manafort’s financial ties with people in Russia and Ukraine fell in the scope of Mr. Mueller’s jurisdiction. “We followed the money,” he said.”
“But he questioned why the special counsel’s team had pursued the charges against Mr. Manafort when it had referred allegations about the president’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.”
“Why in New York did you feel it was not necessary to keep that, but it was necessary to keep this bank fraud?” he asked.”
“He suggested that the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia might take over the prosecution. At another point, he asked whether the special counsel’s office had already run through its $10 million budget.”
“The judge ordered prosecutors to give him a complete copy of an August memo in which Mr. Rosenstein outlined the authority of the special counsel. Mr. Rosenstein has specifically authorized Mr. Mueller to investigate allegations that Mr. Manafort, who lobbied for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, committed crimes involving payments from the Ukrainian government, according to the brief part of the memo that was made public when it was filed in court. Most of it was blacked out.”