Corrected: US judge questions special counsel's powers in Manafort case


A USA federal judge considering Robert Mueller's accusations against Manafort, stated Friday that the Special Counsel should not have absolute power to prosecute the President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, MSNBC reported.

Ellis withheld ruling on dismissal of the indictment. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to both indictments. Ellis suggested Mueller's team was simply trying to put pressure on Manafort "to sing" by revealing information about President Donald Trump. "You really care about what information he might give you about Mr. Trump and what might lead to his impeachment or prosecution".

Mueller's team countered that any investigation of alleged collusion between the campaign and Russia "would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs".

In federal court in the District of Columbia, Judge Amy Jackson has already tossed out a lawsuit seeking to bar the special counsel from bringing any future charges against Manafort. Both indictments center largely around Manafort's lobbying work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian interests.

Trump noted that the judge asked prosecutors how the charges brought against Manafort - which stem from his work in Ukraine before the 2016 election - were relevant to the core of the Russian Federation probe and that the judge hypothesized that prosecutors only went after Manafort to secure his cooperation for other parts of the probe. But Mr. Downing's brief to a federal judge is relevant to the Mueller Russia investigation because it punches a big hole in dossier conspiracies being investigated by the FBI and Congress.

At the hearing, Justice Department attorney Michael Dreeben argued that Mueller acted properly and always consulted with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the investigation, about the steps he was taking.

US District Judge Thomas Selby Ellis took a skeptical approach to the purposes of lawyers from the office of Special Counsel Mueller, MSNBC reported from outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Ellis was equally blunt in saying there must be limits on Mueller's authority.

"We don't want anyone in this country with unfettered power". Ellis said. "Tell me how".

At one point, he expressed derision for Breeden's argument that he couldn't fully explain all the reasons for how the special counsel proceeded. He noted that the law authorizing the special counsel was passed to replace the old independent counsel law, which was derided for allowing overbroad, yearslong investigations during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

"I've been saying that for a long time", Trump said.

He summed up the Special Counsel's Office as, "We said this was what [the] investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying".

Legal experts questioned the judge's comments.

The judge also pressed prosecutors on why they referred the investigation of Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen to federal prosecutors in NY, while retaining the Manafort case.