Robert Mueller’s special investigation has dragged on for nearly a year, and to many it simply seems like it’s little more than a fishing expedition, hoping to find SOMETHING that President Donald J. Trump did wrong. Even famous leftists like Alan Dershowitz agree with that claim. Today, it seems that the judge in the Manafort case agrees that there are issues with the extreme overreach for “unfettered power” by the special investigation.
In a shocking turn of events, a federal judge rebuked Mueller and his team, accusing them of lying to target the President, and of vastly expanding the scope of the investigation beyond what Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein empowered them to investigate. He suggested that they may not even have the right to charge Paul Manafort in federal court, and that they are lying about their mandate and seeking “unfettered power” to bring down the President of the United States of America.
In the beginning, he pointed out that the charges against Manafort, charges of bank fraud stemming from his work for Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych, seem to be outside the mandate Rosenstein’s memo laid out for the investigation.
This is a point that Kevin Downing, the attorney for the former Trump campaign associate, has repeatedly made, although a partially redacted version of Rosenstein’s memo allegedly gave the investigation the power to look into suspected crimes related to payment for work in Ukraine.
Judge Ellis also said that he doesn’t believe the special investigation actually cares about prosecuting the bank fraud at all. Rather, he seems to believe that Mueller and his investigators and prosecutors are simply hoping to ‘squeeze’ the former member of the Trump campaign, hoping he might “sing,” and that the information he gives up could be an actionable or impeachable offense.
The judge outright said that the investigation didn’t care about the defendant, but rather they cared about “what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”
The federal judge said that he was worried that Manafort might not just ‘sing’, but also ‘compose,’ providing information that the investigators want to hear to save himself, rather than providing necessarily accurate information.
In order to clear up the actual limitations of the scope of the mandate provided in the Rosenstein memo, the court demanded access to the unredacted memo.
According to the Mueller investigative team, the August 2017 scope memo, and the May 2, 2017 letter appointing the former FBI Director to lead the investigation, provided the team with a broad mandate to investigate essentially whatever they felt like investigating.
Even if that is the case, the fact that the special investigators are relying on information from an earlier Department of Justice probe in their attempt to indict and convict Manafort, according to Ellis, may place the charges outside their scope.
The investigative team also said that they couldn’t show the judge the unredacted memo because it contains some powers that are secret because they involve ongoing investigations, as well as information on national security matters that cannot be publicly disclosed.
Ellis, in an amused and unpersuaded response to this claim, said that the argument of the special investigative team was essentially “we said this was what the investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying.”
He also issued an order to the team, saying that they had two weeks to provide him with an unredacted copy of the scope memo, or to provide him with a better reason why he couldn’t see it.
When the prosecutors claimed that the scope contained material not pertaining to the Manafort charges, the judge replied, appropriately, “I’ll be the judge of that.”
Ellis also suggested that this kind of limitless power to investigate whatever they could conceive of was not in the best interest of the nation or the courts, and that it was extremely open to abuse.
He even asked when, exactly, the investigation would finally conclude, and at what point special counsel attorney Michael Dreeben would be satisfied that they had investigated enough.
The special counsel refused to speculate or provide a clear answer.
The judge then asked him why the Manafort case remained a part of the special investigation, while a similar case against Michael Cohen, the President’s personal lawyer, was spun off and handed over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York.
In asking such a question, Ellis is doing precisely as a wise judge should do, especially considering the nature of the court case thus far. If the case that the prosecution is trying to bring against the defendant is entirely out of their scope, they must turn the case over to the proper authority.
They cannot decide that they will use the case to bully Manafort into some sort of confession when they don’t even have the right to run the case.
Judge Ellis made a strong statement that he would not cosign an arbitrary and infinite special investigation attempting to squeeze people for information.
The judge has been impartial throughout the process. When the case began, he warned the defendant that he could face punishment as stiff as a life sentence in a federal prison, and during bond hearings pointed out that the defendant was a significant flight risk due to his ties to foreign nations and his wealth.
It’s time that the Mueller investigation either bears some sort of fruit against its intended target, or that the special counsel admits that it’s a fishing expedition hoping to find something wrong to prosecute the President for.