On Friday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III blasted Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team during a hearing on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, saying that they are only concerned with trying to take down President Donald Trump.
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort,” Ellis told Mueller’s team of Democratic prosecutors. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever."
Fox News reports:
Further, Ellis demanded to see the unredacted “scope memo,” a document outlining the scope of the special counsel’s Russia probe that congressional Republicans have also sought.
The hearing, where Manafort’s team fought to dismiss an 18-count indictment on tax and bank fraud-related charges, took a confrontational turn as it was revealed that at least some of the information in the investigation derived from an earlier Justice Department probe – in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Ellis, who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, also asked Mueller's team where they got the constitutional authority to indict Manafort for alleged crimes that took place well over a decade ago.
"Our investigative scope does cover the activity in the indictment," Michael Dreeben, the deputy solicitor general who is currently working on Mueller’s team, told Ellis.
"Cover bank fraud in 2005 and 2007? Tell me how!" Ellis shot back.
Fox News notes:
The special counsel argues that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein granted them broad authority in his May 2, 2017 letter appointing Mueller to this investigation. But after the revelation that the team is using information from the earlier DOJ probe, Ellis said that information did not “arise” out of the special counsel probe – and therefore may not be within the scope of that investigation.
“We don’t want anyone with unfettered power,” Ellis told Mueller's team.
Mueller's team claimed that their authority comes from an August 2017 "scope memo" and that some of their powers are "secret" because "they involve ongoing investigations and national security matters that cannot be publicly disclosed."
Ellis found the comments from Mueller's team about having secret powers to be comical and he was not persuaded.
"It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants," Ellis told Mueller's team. "The American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power."
"We said this was what [the] investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying," Ellis continued, mocking Mueller's team. Fox News added:
The judge also gave the government two weeks to hand over the unredacted “scope memo” or provide an explanation why not -- after prosecutors were reluctant to do so, claiming it has material that doesn’t pertain to Manafort.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Ellis responded.