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Judge questions whether Mueller team overreached with Manafort case

Judge questions whether Mueller team overreached with Manafort case

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis admonished special counsel Robert Mueller's lawyers Friday for potentially exceeding the bounds of their mandate to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Dreeben said the investigations were "folded together with our overall examination of Mr. Manafort's conduct", and he was indicted based on information developed by Mueller as they followed the trail of money that left Ukraine. They also said they had additional authority that they could not disclose in the courtroom because it related to ongoing investigations and could affect national security.

Ellis withheld ruling on the motion and will issue a written ruling at a later date.

Government lawyers admitted that Manafort had been investigated for years in the Eastern District of Virginia before Mueller was ever appointed as special counsel.

Manafort's lawyers argued Friday for the dismissal of the Virginia indictment, saying that the charges should be tossed out because they do not relate specifically to the Russian Federation investigation and the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 presidential race in Trump's favor. The Virginia case charges him with offences including tax and bank fraud. The tax charges against Manafort had to be brought in Virginia, though, for jurisdictional reasons.

During a hearing in which Manafort was seeking the dismissal of one of the two indictments against him in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, Ellis speculated that prosecutors had charged him to get him to flip against Trump.

Ellis appeared receptive, at least in part, to the argument.

"The vernacular is to 'sing, ' is what prosecutors use".

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The request comes a week after a judge tossed out a civil lawsuit filed by Manafort that had challenged Mueller's authority.

Why is Manafort in court?

Breeden said the Manafort case is different.

The judge's unusually provocative remarks and questions don't necessarily indicate how he will rule, but they put Mueller's team on the defensive.

Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor from Boston and Washington, DC, said as much.

"What we don't want in this country, we don't want anyone with unfettered power", he said.

The Virginia indictment alleges Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine from the Internal Revenue Service, all occurring years before Donald Trump ran for president. "If the judge considers Mueller's motivation in bringing the indictment and dismisses it, that's reversible error".

"When Mueller came across Manafort's illicit activities, he had two choices", Cramer said. "None of that information has to do with information related to the Russian government coordination and the campaign of Donald Trump".

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