A federal judge in Virginia on Friday sharply questioned special counsel Robert Mueller’s authority to bring tax and bank fraud charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.We don't really know what the special counsel is authorized to investigate, because Rod Rosenstein is stonewalling requests to find out. But Judge Ellis could throw out the Manafort case with prejudice, which would be a huge blow to Mueller.
“I don’t see what relationship this indictment has with anything the special counsel is authorized to investigate,” said US District Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” Ellis told Mueller’s team, suggesting that they lied about the scope of the probe and are seeking “unfettered power” to bring down the president.
Meanwhile, the Russian troll farms that that Mueller is supposedly dealing with are fighting back as well:
A federal judge has rejected special counsel Robert Mueller’s request to delay the first court hearing in a criminal case charging three Russian companies and 13 Russian citizens with using social media and other means to foment strife among Americans in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.This was supposed to be a slam-dunk. Now, maybe not:
In a brief order Saturday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich offered no explanation for her decision to deny a request prosecutors made Friday to put off the scheduled Wednesday arraignment for Concord Management and Consulting, one of the three firms charged in the case.
The 13 people charged in the high-profile indictment in February are considered unlikely to ever appear in a U.S. court. The three businesses accused of facilitating the alleged Russian troll farm operation — the Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, and Concord Catering — were also expected to simply ignore the American criminal proceedings.The discovery request suggests the game these lawyers are playing:
Last month, however, a pair of Washington-area lawyers suddenly surfaced in the case, notifying the court that they represent Concord Management. POLITICO reported at the time that the move appeared to be a bid to force Mueller’s team to turn over relevant evidence to the Russian firm and perhaps even to bait prosecutors into an embarrassing dismissal in order to avoid disclosing sensitive information.
Lawyers for the company accused of funding Russia’s election interference trolls are demanding that special counsel Robert Mueller turn over reams of information, including the identities of informants, details of any electronic surveillance, and a list of “each and every instance” since 1945 in which the U.S. “engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes in any foreign country.”I hold no brief for Russian troll farms, but this request is pretty amusing, actually. Anybody up for a little discussion of Jacobo Arbenz? Or Iran, circa 1953? Or Obama trying to oust Netanyahu?
This is gonna get pretty interesting soon.