by WorldTribune Staff, June 29, 2018
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution of Paul Manafort is no doubt aimed at the Russia investigation’s “true target,” – President Donald Trump – a federal judge said in an opinion released this week.
“Although these kinds of high-pressure prosecutorial tactics are neither uncommon nor illegal, they are distasteful,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said.
“Although this case will continue, those involved should be sensitive to the danger unleashed when political disagreements are transformed into partisan prosecutions,” Ellis said.
Ellis also went after the Department of Justice for letting special counsel powers get out of hand. DOJ replaced the old “independent counsel” law with a new set of “special counsel” regulations meant to rein in open-ended criminal probes that last for years with unlimited budgets, the judge said.
“The regulations do not require the Special Counsel’s investigation to be limited as to time or budget,” Ellis said. “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.”
The judge added that Mueller is under public pressure to charge associates 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,” Ellis said.
Ellis rejected Manafort’s argument that the Mueller-brought tax-evasion indictment exceeded the special counsel’s authority and should be dismissed.
District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Manafort’s bail revoked and sent him to jail on June 15 for communicating with witnesses.
Although there have been press reports that Manafort was captured on U.S. intercepts speaking with Russian officials, Mueller reportedly has told the defendant he has no such evidence.