Special Counsel Robert Mueller has handed over an unredacted memo to a Virginia judge on Thursday outlining the scope of his wide-ranging probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. There is just one problem: the memorandum, written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was filed under seal in the Eastern District of Virginia after judge T.S. Ellis, who is overseeing the case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, excoriated a Special Counsel attorney two weeks ago during a "motion to dismiss" hearing.
In other words, virtually nobody can read the 3-page memo that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote on Aug. 2, 2017, explaining why Manafort was a target of the special counsel; although now that it is in the "public arena" we fully expect its contents to leak within days: after all, if this was a memo with any Trump-damaging information, it would have been leaked by "sources" inside the FBI and NSA long before it was even submitted to the court.
During a May 4 hearing in which Judge Ellis made the demand to see the full, unredacted memo, after DOJ attorney Michael Dreeben argued at the hearing that the redacted version offered the relevant paragraphs about Manafort, Ellis said: “I’ll be the judge of whether it relates to the others.”
Meanwhile, as twitter commentators suspect, the presence of the memo "will fuel calls by Trump allies on the hill to obtain the memo themselves."
NEWS: The Special Counsel has filed under seal what is believed to be the unredacted memo detailing the scope of Mueller's investigation.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 17, 2018
Will almost certainly fuel (likely futile) calls by Trump allies on the hill to obtain the memo themselves: https://t.co/bidw0YjMHy pic.twitter.com/YoUYZL3kQz
A leaked transcript of a heated exchange between attorney Michael Dreeben and Eastern District of Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis revealed that the entire Manafort case was in jeopardy if the Special Counsel didn't produce an unredacted copy of the original order from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein authorizing the original investigation.
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
Ellis also 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, and called out the DOJ's efforts in 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 also noted 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 provided an unsatisfactory lawyerly response about how everything is connected to everything (including, apparently, whether Trump paid a woman to keep quiet about consensual sex).
Ellis also gave prosecutors two weeks to show what evidence they have that Manafort was complicit in colluding with the Russians.
Manafort faces two indictments by Mueller in Washington D.C. and Virginia, charging him with various crimes ranging from conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent, to bank and tax fraud.
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.