Paul Manafort sporting a light khaki green prison jumpsuit with a hang dog droopy collar appeared in court just long enough to receive another basket of bad news: Five people on special counsel Robert Mueller’s never-ending and secretive witness list have been granted immunity for their testimony.
Manafort was then excused from Kangaroo court so Mueller and Manafort’s lawyers could hammer out details.
On the docket of presiding U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, who seems impartial so far, are Manafort’s alleged crimes including bank and tax fraud, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, and witness tampering. It’s the latter charge that worries Ellis into detaining Manafort, without bail, until trial.
Manafort has pled not guilty.
Mueller is sticking his beak into orifices he may want to steer clear of in pursuit of the golden suet. As it appears to the mentally competent, and through his and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s own testimony thus far, there are no Americans involved in the Russia hacks pertaining to the 2016 presidential election.
Understand, the charges against Manafort pre-date the five months he worked on the Trump team in 2016 – and should not be part of his “witch hunt” of President Trump. Yes, I did use Trump speak.
But Mueller in the pursuit of Trump has made very little sense thus far. Here we have him, pecking away in the neighbor’s barnyard, in search of the buried worm he can link to Trump. This constant ankle pecking at President Trump, his associates and acquaintances, is costly and irritating, but not much more.
But don’t take my word for it – Judge Ellis is skeptical at best of Mueller’s intentions:
“I don’t see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate. You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud [ . . . ] What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment. What we don’t want in this country, we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants.”
And then he granted Mueller’s request for immunity of the five witnesses. Go figure.
Mueller’s filing for immunity emphatically requested information about the big five witnesses be sealed — that he believes this is necessary to protect the identities of “uncharged third parties,” to alleviate potential “undue harassment,” and “reputational harm.”
But crafty old Ellis changed courses once more much to the chagrin of Mueller, when he declared Monday, “I’m going to take the seal off.”
And he did: Meet witnesses James Brennan, Donna Duggan, Conor O’Brien, Cindy Laporta and Dennis Raico.
Of note, Ellis also delayed the start of the trial until next week.
All Squawk, no Action
Robert Mueller, undeterred by Ellis’ rebuke, marches forward in pursuit of his own agenda –not justice for all. His continual scratching the dirt in search of a proverbial smoking gun has even the most seasoned of judges warning of overreach and advising the counselor to stay in his own lane.
Mueller’s ever-annoying presence in issues that should be of no concern to his pursuits, are designed to spark controversy, commentary and the ‘what-abouts and what-ifs’ pundits to spin tales their followers take as fact.
Let’s keep this mind: This is Manafort’s day in court and his freedom is at stake. Whether he will be found guilty or not, Mueller should not be allowed to poison the well, or the jury pool, with the stunts he continues to pull with seeming impunity. It’s time for Judge Ellis to put Mueller in his place.
Or as Ellis has stated before to Mueller’s team when they deem to tell him what’s pertinent to his courtroom and case, “I’ll be the judge of that.”
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