Political News

Judge in Manafort case says Mueller's aim is to hurt Trump

Posted May 4, 2018 11:11 a.m. EDT

— A federal judge expressed deep skepticism Friday in the bank fraud case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's office against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, at one point saying he believes that Mueller's motivation is to oust President Donald Trump from office.

"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud," District Judge T.S. Ellis said to prosecutor Michael Dreeben, at times losing his temper. Ellis said prosecutors were interested in Manafort because of his potential to provide material that would lead to Trump's "prosecution or impeachment," Ellis said.

"That's what you're really interested in," said Ellis, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

He repeated his suspicion several times in the hour-long court hearing.

At one point, Ellis posed a hypothetical question, speaking as if he were the prosecutor, about why Mueller's office referred a criminal investigation about Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen to New York authorities and kept the Manafort case in Virginia.

Were they "not interested in it to further our core effort to get Trump," Ellis said, mimicking a prosecutor in the case.

Manafort is charged in Virginia with financial violations related to his lobbying work in Ukraine prior to joining Trump's 2016 campaign. Dreeben said they had to "follow the money" and find Manafort's contacts with Russians through the Ukrainian work and his financial dealings as part of their investigation.