Yesterday we told you about an intense courtroom battle that played out on Friday between the judge in Paul Manafort's case and an attorney for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in which the judge said that Mueller shouldn't have "unfettered power" to prosecute Manafort for charges that have nothing to do with collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Manafort's lawyers had asked the judge in the Virginia case to dismiss an indictment filed against him in what was their third effort to beat back criminal charges by attacking Mueller’s authority. In addition to pushing back against the Special Counsel's argument for why Manafort's bank fraud charges are related to the Russia investigation, the judge also questioned why Manafort’s case could not be handled by the U.S. attorney’s office in Virginia, rather than the Special Counsel’s office, as it is not Russia-related.
Today, a transcript of that hearing was leaked to Twitter user @Techno_Fog, a New York attorney who eloquently dissected the intense back-and-forth between Eastern District of Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis, a Reagan appointee, and Mueller attorney Michael Dreeben.
The transcript reveals an unimpressed Ellis repeatedly pushing back against Dreeben's attempts to tie Manafort's bank fraud case to Russia, while an arrogant Dreeben suggests that the power vested in Ellis is dwarfed by the Special Counsel's omnipotence.
Ellis then calls out the case as an attempt by Mueller to gain leverage over Manafort.
"You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That's what you're really interested in." -Judge Ellis
Ellis then points out to Dreeben that the Special Counsel's indictment against Manafort doesn't mention:
(1) Russian individuals
(2) Russian banks
(3) Russian money
(4) Russian payments to Manafort
To which Dreeben looped back to the argument that "the money that forms the basis for the criminal charges" comes from Manafort's "Ukraine activities," which is tied to Manafort's Russia activities (which still doesn't answer the Judge's question).
Manafort's attorney hit back, calling the Special Counsel's arguments "absolutely erroneous."
Ellis has given prosecutors two weeks to show what evidence they have that Manafort was complicit in colluding with the Russians. If they can't come up with any, he may, presumably, dismiss the case. Ellis also asked the special counsel’s office to share privately with him a copy of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein’s August 2017 memo elaborating on the scope of Mueller’s Russia probe. He said the current version he has been heavily redacted.
Uh-oh precedence if this gets dismissed.... The Judge may single handedly end the cat and mouse games by the special council and would make it much harder for Muller to turn any other parties to his side (because all charges are unrelated to Russia so far)....— Rob Lee (@WRRob) May 4, 2018
Without further introduction, Techno_Fog's breakdown of the transcripts (with full copy at bottom):
I got my hands on the May 4 transcript from the USA v. Manafort hearing in front of Judge Ellis. (Thanks to a close friend.)— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Here we go... pic.twitter.com/MsEmKIlUhn
Judge Ellis immediately lays out his understanding of the Manafort case: The criminal indictment relates back to 2005, 2007, etc., that the DOJ investigation of Manafort had been going on for years.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
The Special Counsel (SC) concedes that fact. pic.twitter.com/0fa711HOCT
Judge: When SC was appointed, did DOJ turn over their Manafort file to you?— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Special Counsel: [Evades]
Judge: "I'm sorry. Answer my question." pic.twitter.com/Otfgbxezhw
Judge Ellis:— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
"If I look at the indictment, none of that information has anything to do with links or coordination between the Russian gov't and individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump." pic.twitter.com/GzYgUlyR0d
Judge Ellis recognizes what this is: an attempt by Mueller to squeeze Manafort. He likens the whole thing to a small-time drug dealer getting pinched.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
"I think we out to be very clear about these facts and what is happening." pic.twitter.com/6UpL1NdP5B
The Judge lays out his correct observation that this case is all about leverage— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
He asks the Special Counsel if that assessment is wrong.
The Special Counsel refuses to answer the question. Twice. pic.twitter.com/4vi1KKOglU
Judge: How does the 2005/2007 bank fraud have anything to do with coordination b/w the Russians and the Trump campaign?— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Special Counse: [More evasion]
Judge: "You're running away from my question again." pic.twitter.com/RMCVPMtY35
Important exchange here.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
SC explains to the Judge that the indictments are w/in the scope of the SC appointment: leads from the prior DOJ case eventually contributed to and led to the indictment.
The Judge isn't convinced. pic.twitter.com/YaVX20rROT
SC: If the investigation is valid, the crimes that arose from that investigation are w/in the SC's authority to prosecute.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Judge: "Even though it didn't arise from your investigation. It arose from a preexisting investigation."
An amazingly arrogant sequence here by team Mueller.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
The SC is basically telling the Judge that grants of authority to the Special Counsel cannot be challenged through the courts.
Not "judicially enforceable." pic.twitter.com/droTOG82vB
That is what elicited Judge Ellis's response that we don't want "unfettered power."— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Judge Ellis continues, saying he's not going to be persuaded that Mueller has "unlimited powers to do anything" Mueller wants. pic.twitter.com/rysP4lIH9x
Here, Judge Ellis is requesting the full August 2 Rosenstein memo.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Important Q: What if the memo proves right Judge Ellis's suspicions about the SC being a means to impeachment? pic.twitter.com/Q7KgFODbyL
Eventually the SC sits down and it's Manafort's lawyer's turn.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Judge Ellis to Manafort's lawyer: Does the 8/2 memo remedy any issue with Mueller's jurisdiction?
Manafort's lawyer: No. It can't retroactively be remedied. pic.twitter.com/cacD2MRZHC
Judge: Isn't the right result to give the case back to the EDVA USAO?— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Manafort lawyer: No - Mueller had no authority to conduct a grand jury investigation, to get search warrants, to get the indictment.
[Personal note: I just don't see the judge going that far.] pic.twitter.com/20Q7MJhC2l
It's time to start punching back: Manafort's lawyer almost accuses the SC of lying to the court about whether the indictment "arose from" the SC investigation.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
The SC's arguments are "absolutely erroneous." pic.twitter.com/3SOmHICbJY
This statement by the SC proves that Rosenstein has hid the true scope of the Mueller probe - and how it has expanded/shifted - from the public. pic.twitter.com/nKdV2g3z4i— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
And here we go: Judge Ellis gets after the SC for trying to have it both ways.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
The result - "Come on, man" pic.twitter.com/kz4X3JMfuv
Important. Judge Ellis explains the Mueller's end game:— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
"You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That's what you're really interested in." pic.twitter.com/bAlGuxOZBV
After going through all that, they get back to the real issue: Are the Rosenstein memos from May 2017 and August 2017 sufficient to confer jurisdiction to the Special Counsel? pic.twitter.com/iw3vB5PNRi— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Judge Ellis contemplating why the Manafort case couldn't be sent to the EDVA USAO office by referencing the Michael Cohen case:— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
"Wasn't there a matter in NY recently that the special counsel returned to the Southern District of New York?" pic.twitter.com/1QjGAheJvu
Judge Ellis poses a question (a Q to which he will later provided an answer), asking why the Cohen was referred to the SDNY.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Special Counsel "not at liberty" to answer that question.... pic.twitter.com/2JEnUvk9P6
However, the Judge has his own theory:— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Did the SC farm out the Cohen case because it wasn't within the SC's jurisidction, or....
Did it have SDNY handle the Cohen case because they "can't use this to further [the Special Counsel's] core effort, which is to get to Trump" pic.twitter.com/ttv7L5UjZh
The SC's explanation as to why the Cohen case is different from the Manafort case isn't convincing. pic.twitter.com/mmmtZfRX4f— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Judge Ellis then tells the SC that the indictment does not mention:— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
(1) Russian individuals
(2) Russian banks
(3) Russian money
(4) Russian payments to Manafort
The SC concedes that fact. pic.twitter.com/BjH2aOF6Lq
The hearing closed with a request from Manafort's lawyer that internal DOJ memos regarding the appointment and scope of the Special Counsel's authority/jurisdiction be produced.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 5, 2018
Apparently, rat-faced Rosenstein loves memos.
The judge took that under advisement. pic.twitter.com/SCfmTjZ2fX
Read the entire exchange below: