It’s official: Asking sharp questions about the jurisdictional limits of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is no longer the sole province of conservative columnists and House Republicans. Mueller’s witch hunt is finally making its way through the court system, starting with the prosecution of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. And if Friday’s proceedings are anything to judge by, the days of the special counsel hunting this president in a manner unrestrained by tradition, ethics, or laws of any kind may be coming to an end.
Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia has seen the truth behind the lies…and he doesn’t like it one bit.
“If I look at the indictment, none of that information has anything to do with links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump,” he said in court on Friday. “So I don’t see what relation this indictment has with anything the special prosecutor is authorized to investigate.”
Manafort is being charged with bank and wire fraud stemming from his 2005 involvement as a consultant for the Ukrainian leadership at the time. And we have no opinion one way or the other as to whether he’s guilty as charged. We would assume that he is, judging by the fact that Mueller was so keen to arrest him, raid his home, and charge his with several federal crimes. But either way, what the judge says is correct: This has absolutely nothing to do with the 2016 election, which is what the special counsel was appointed to investigate.
As such, Judge Ellis surmised that Mueller’s only goal in prosecuting Manafort was “to exert leverage on a defendant so that the defendant will turn and provide information on what is really the focus of the special prosecutor.”
In other words, Donald Trump.
You’ll find few political commentators on either side of the right/left divide who will disagree with the judge’s opinion here. It’s very obvious that this is what Mueller’s doing, which makes it all the more infuriating for Democrats that Manafort, as of yet, has NOT flipped. And now they’re enraged further that a judge has called the special counsel out on his tactics. Because if Ellis follows through and dismisses the charges against Manafort on the premise that Mueller is outside his mandate, all that leverage goes out the window.
Mueller’s attack dog, Michael Dreeben, argued that the special counsel is authorized to investigate any crimes, of any kind, arising from the original mandated scope.
But Ellis wasn’t amused.
“What we don’t want in this country is we don’t want anyone with unfettered power,” Ellis said. “So it’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me that the special prosecutor has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants.”
It looks like Mueller has finally met his match. Meanwhile, we may have found our favorite judge in America.