Judge critical of Mueller's attempt to extort testimony out of Manafort, but allows case to continue
A federal judge says “even a blind person” can see that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is prosecuting Paul Manafort as a way to acquire evidence against his “true target,” President Trump.It is a point I have been arguing for some time. I think the guidelines are allowing a prosecutorial abuse. The lawyer Mueller hired for overseeing the Manafort case, Andrew Weissmann, is notorious for this kind of overreach. In previous cases, he has been reversed by appellate courts and the US Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III made the comment in an opinion released this week that nonetheless sided with Mr. Mueller and against Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager. He rejected Mr. Manafort’s argument that the Mueller-brought tax-evasion indictment exceeded the special counsel’s authority and should be dismissed.
Judge Ellis, sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia, expressed dismay at the special counsel system and at Mr. Mueller in particular.
“Given the investigation’s focus on President Trump’s campaign, even a blind person can see that the true target of the Special Counsel’s investigation is President Trump, not defendant, and that defendant’s prosecution is part of that larger plan,” he wrote. “Specifically, the charges against defendant are intended to induce defendant to cooperate with the Special Counsel by providing evidence against the President or other members of the campaign. Although these kinds of high-pressure prosecutorial tactics are neither uncommon nor illegal, they are distasteful.”
Legal experts say prosecutors will file numerous charges, creating huge legal defense costs, to force targets to talk.
“The regulations do not require the Special Counsel’s investigation to be limited as to time or budget,” he wrote. “Thus, to provide a Special Counsel with a large budget and to tell him or her to find crimes allows a Special Counsel to pursue his or her targets without the usual time and budget constraints facing ordinary prosecutors, encouraging substantial elements of the public to conclude that the Special Counsel is being deployed as a political weapon.”
Judge Ellis said Mr. Mueller is under public pressure to charge people in the Trump campaign.
“If a Special Counsel discovers no criminal activity then the investigation is likely to be perceived as a waste of time and resources, and thus a Special Counsel has a strong incentive to find criminality and to prosecute criminal conduct by the people he has been charged with investigating — here persons connected with the Trump campaign,” he said.