A federal judge said Special Counsel Robert Mueller should not have “unfettered power” in probing ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, and accused Mueller of using criminal cases to pressure Trump’s allies to turn against him.
At a tense hearing in a federal court in Virginia on Friday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III [Eastern District of Virginia] sharply questioned whether Mueller exceeded his authority in filing tax and bank fraud charges against Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Ellis said the indictment appeared to be a way for Mueller to leverage Manafort into providing information about Trump.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” the judge said. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead to Mr. Trump” and his eventual prosecution or impeachment.
“It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unfettered power to do whatever he wants,” Ellis, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, said at a hearing on Manafort’s motion to dismiss the Virginia charges.