Manafort Case: Judge Questions Mueller's Powers

'We had to follow the money where it led,' Justice Department lawyer told the court
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2018 5:02 PM CDT
Paul Manafort and his wife, Kathleen Manafort, walk into the Alexandria Federal Courthouse on Friday, May 4, 2018, in Alexandria, Va.   (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

(Newser) – The indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort took center stage in federal court on Friday and things got a bit testy. US District Court Judge T.S. Ellis tartly asked Robert Mueller's prosecution team to explain how their indictment of Manafort on financial charges relates to Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the election. "I don't see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate," Ellis, a 77-year-old Reagan appointee, declared at the hearing, reports Politico. "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud. ... What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment."

Ellis suggested that the case was meant to pressure Trump’s former campaign manager to “sing” and squeeze information that could be used against the president. In response, Justice Department lawyer Michael Dreeben asserted that Manafort’s alleged crimes were relevant to Trump’s campaign ties to Russia: “In trying to understand the actions of Mr. Manafort in Ukraine and the association he had with Russian individuals and the depths of those financial relationships, we had to follow the money where it led,” he told the court, reports the Washington Post. Manafort is facing criminal charges in Virginia of tax and bank fraud, and he’s also facing criminal charges in Washington, DC, for failing to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine and conspiring to launder money, per Reuters. The judge held off on ruling on Manafort's request to toss the case. (Read more Paul Manafort stories.)

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