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>> Judge in Manafort case says Mueller's aim is to hurt Trump. Do you believe that?>> President Trump declaring himself vindicated by a federal judge in Virginia who took special council Robert Mueller to task. On Friday, judge T.S. Ellis the third said that Mueller should not have "unfettered power", and accused him of using criminal cases to pressure Trump's allies to turn against him.
Ellis is hearing a case against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, and at a tense hearing in Virginia questioned whether Mueller exceeded his authority in filing tax and bank fraud charges against Manafort, some of which involved alleged crimes more than a decade old. Manafort also faces federal charges in Washington D.C., of conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent when he lobbied for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government.
Judge Ellis said the Virginia indictment appeared to be a way for Mueller to try to get Manafort to provide information about Trump, to get him to, "sing", that was music to Trump's ears. He read the judge's comments out at a speech at the National Rifle Association in Dallas.
>> How does this have anything to do with the campaign, the judge asks. I've been saying that for a long time, it's a witch hunt.>> The sharp tone of the judge's comments could spell trouble for Mueller's case against Manafort, and put even greater pressure on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to rein in the Russia investigation.
Mueller is tasked with investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign. On Friday, Mueller's team pushed back against judge Ellis's charges arguing the special council's investigative scope covered the activity in the indictment. Manafort has filed a motion to have the case dismissed.