It Seems Mueller Just Doubled His Witness List For Manafort's Trial

The special counsel's office said its probe "would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs".

Manafort, 69, is challenging indictments for bank and tax fraud Mueller filed against him in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

The other case in Washington accuses him of conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent when he lobbied for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government.

"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort", Ellis told Mueller's team, according to a Fox News report.

Manafort and his lawyers have mounted an aggressive defense in recent months.

A Mueller prosecutor insisted that the team had not exceeded its mandate.

Manafort's lawyers argued Friday for the dismissal of the Virginia indictment, saying that the charges should be tossed out because they do not relate specifically to the Russian Federation investigation and the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 presidential race in Trump's favor.

Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 race in his favor and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey last May.

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The judge also demanded to see an unredacted version of the "scope memo", a document outlining the scope of the Russian Federation probe. The Obama Justice Department investigated Manafort back in 2014 but decided not to bring charges. "Blocking cooperation with the Mueller probe potentially cuts off a significant opportunity for Ukrainian law enforcement to conduct a more thorough inquiry into possible crimes committed during the Yanukovich era".

The judge has given Mueller's team two weeks to produce the memo. They also said they had additional authority that they could not disclose in the courtroom because it related to ongoing investigations and could affect national security.

To Ellis, this logic amounted to the special counsel's office saying "We said this was what [the] investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying".

Legal experts questioned the judge's comments.

Manafort is also facing a broader indictment in the District of Columbia, where the special counsel has brought the bulk of charges.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, echoed that view.

Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, has argued that a special counsel should be tightly constrained in how it operates. Judge Amy Berman Jackson had dismissed a civil suit over the issue of Mueller's jurisdiction, but pointedly not on the merits of the complaint.

Manafort and Gates are just one of a number of people targeted by Mueller, who was originally tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The judge also floated the idea of transferring the Manafort case to the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.

  • Megan Austin