U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III delivered a major blow to FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of “Russian collusion” in the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump. Judge Ellis, who is presiding over the case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort for bank fraud accused Mueller of using criminal charges to shake down Manafort to obtain his cooperation in the prosecution and impeachment of President Trump. Ellis went so far as to say that the special counsel was trying to get Manafort to “to sing” with the intimation that the investigation’s objective was to “rat out” President Trump.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about what information he might give you about Mr. Trump and what might lead to his impeachment or prosecution,” Ellis said on May 4 in a hearing in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria for the bank fraud indictment against Mr. Manafort which goes to trial on July 10. Mr. Manafort also faces a separate indictment for money laundering which will be heard by a D.C. federal court in September. The two indictments against Manafort which are related to consulting work which he did years ago for a pro-Russia entity in the Ukraine have no link to the 2016 presidential election. (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/04/judge-in-paul-manafort-case-criticizes-robert-mueller-probe.html)
Judge Ellis, a 1987 Ronald Reagan appointee to the bench, shot back at special counsel attorney Michael Dreeben’s assertion that the August 2017 memo authored by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the special counsel investigation of Manafort claiming that “We don’t want anyone in this country with unfettered power”. Judge Ellis gave Dreeben two weeks to produce the two unredacted memos which Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein drafted in May and August 2017 which stipulated the scope and guidelines for the Mueller investigation. (https://www.courthousenews.com/judges-wants-to-see-unredacted-memos-directing-mueller-probe/)
Judge Ellis’s accusing the Mueller investigation of trying to squeeze Manafort to take down President Trump, coupled with his request for the “scope” memos, changes the game. If Rosenstein’s memos reveal that the investigation overstepped its confines, the Mueller investigation will be fully discredited and President Trump will have the public relations coup of telling the world that he was right all along about the investigation being a “witch hunt”. Judge Ellis’s bombshell commentary was not the only FBI related news on Friday. That same day, FBI attorney and lovebird texter Lisa Page resigned, as did FBI former general counsel James Baker.
Interestingly enough, this is not the first time Judge Ellis has made the observation that he does not see any connection between the indictments against Paul Manafort and the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. When Manafort’s bank fraud case landed in his court room in March, he made an observation to Manafort’s defense attorney Kevin Downing which received very little press coverage. “You’d like to point out it doesn’t have anything to do with Russia [or] interfering in the election,” Ellis said to Downing who replied “You made my point”. At that time, Downing stated that he was going to file motions for both the Virginia and D.C. cases on the premise that the Mueller investigation had overstepped its legal authority. (https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/08/judge-in-virginia-schedules-manafort-trial-on-bank-tax-charges-for-july-10-448114)
While Judge Ellis’s comments may have fallen on deaf ears in March, he has our attention now. The truth will come out in those unredacted memos. In two weeks, Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein and Michael Dreeben may be singing like canaries.
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