Federal Judge T.S. Ellis, who is presiding over the Paul Manafort case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller said “even a blind person” can see Mueller’s true target is President Trump. Ellis made the comments in an opinion written this week in a rejection of Mr. Manafort’s argument that Mueller’s tax evasion charges should be dismissed on grounds that he is overstepping his authority.
“Judge Ellis, sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia, expressed dismay at the special counsel system and at Mr. Mueller in particular.
“’Given the investigation’s focus on President Trump’s campaign, even a blind person can see that the true target of the Special Counsel’s investigation is President Trump, not defendant, and that defendant’s prosecution is part of that larger plan,’ he wrote. ‘Specifically, the charges against defendant are intended to induce defendant to cooperate with the Special Counsel by providing evidence against the President or other members of the campaign. Although these kinds of high-pressure prosecutorial tactics are neither uncommon nor illegal, they are distasteful.’
“In negotiations between Mr. Mueller and Trump attorneys over a possible interview, the prosecutor has said Mr. Trump isn’t a target — a specific Justice Department term that means the government has evidence the person committed a crime.”
Legal analysts say that prosecutors often file a lot of charges in order to drive up legal defense costs and force targets to make a deal or rat out bigger targets. Mueller’s strategy worked will with Manafort’s former partner, Rick Gates, who agree to become a witness for the prosecution against Manafort. He specifically said that legal costs were too prohibitive for him to continue.
Ellis also said that the public must conclude that Mueller is a “political weapon.” Ellis said, “The regulations do not require the Special Counsel’s investigation to be limited as to time or budget. 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.”
Mueller’s main mission was to investigate whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign in order to win the election. Manafort has not been charged with anything related to that thus far.
Judge Ellis concluded his ruling with, “Although this case will continue, those involved should be sensitive to the danger unleashed when political disagreements are transformed into partisan prosecutions.”