Special counsel Robert Mueller asked a judge Thursday to issue 70 blank subpoenas that will be used to compel the appearance of witnesses at the upcoming criminal trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort", U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told Mueller's team. He asked the special counsel's office to share privately with him a copy of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein's August 2017 memo elaborating on the scope of Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.
While speaking to the NRA at a conference in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, Trump read out Ellis's remarks and said that he felt sympathy for Manafort, and agreed with Ellis about Mueller's motivation. In motions filed in March, Manafort's attorneys claimed Mueller's charges had gone well outside what the Justice Department had tasked him to probe almost ago.
But he has yet to be charged by the special counsel for anything related to Russia's interference in the 2016 election to prop up Trump's candidacy. The Virginia case charges him with offences including tax and bank fraud.
Former Justice Department veterans were confounded by the comment and said it has no bearing on the validity of the case against Manafort.
Manafort appeared in court early Friday to seek the dismissal of the charges outlined in the Virginia indictment. She reportedly was said to have damaging information on Trump's campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, which was "part of Russian Federation and its government's support for Mr. Trump". Both indictments center largely around Manafort's lobbying work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian interests.
'I'm sure you're sensitive to the fact that the American people feel pretty strongly about no one having unfettered power, ' Ellis said.
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Mueller's team says its authorities are laid out in documents including the August 2017 scope memo - and that some powers are secret because they involve ongoing investigations and national security matters that can not be publicly disclosed.
Manafort's team has argued that Rosenstein inappropriately gave Mueller a "blank check" to investigate a "potpourri of purported misdeeds that have nothing to do with alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government".
But Ellis did not say whether or not the special counsel has the authority to bring the charges, leaving open the question of whether he will dismiss the case. Nothing I want to do more, because we did nothing wrong.
"When Mueller came across Manafort's illicit activities, he had two choices", Cramer said.
Manafort is also facing a broader indictment in the District of Columbia, where the special counsel has brought the bulk of charges.
Deripaska is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and signed a $10 million annual contract with Manafort in 2006; they maintained a business relationship until at least 2009.