It was revealed Friday the federal judge presiding over special counsel Robert Mueller's fraud case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort believes the case is not really about the charges Mueller has brought against Manafort.
Instead, the judge alleged Mueller is using Manafort as a pawn to achieve his ultimate goal: "prosecution or impeachment" of President Donald Trump. CNN broke the story, but now the official court transcripts have been leaked. What they reveal is an epic showdown between Mueller attorney Michael Dreeben and U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis.
What do the transcripts show?
The transcripts show Ellis repeatedly grill Dreeben over how their current case against Manafort has anything to do with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which is the scope of Mueller's investigation. The charges Mueller brought against Manafort are for crimes that mostly happened more than a decade ago.
Dreeben repeatedly dodges Ellis' questions, forcing the judge to pry answers out of the special counsel's team. And just as reported, the judge exposed the case for exactly what he believes it is: an attempt to gain leverage on Manafort that will eventually be used against Trump.
"You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever. That's what you're really interested in," Ellis said. The transcripts show Manafort's lawyer agreed with the judge's statement.
Ellis noted Mueller's case against Manafort doesn't even mention Russia, which he said hurts the legitimacy of the charges against Manafort.
In the end, Ellis gave Mueller's team two weeks to show they have evidence proving Manafort colluded with Russian individuals during the 2016 presidential election. If Mueller's team cannot do so, the case could be tossed.
Who published the transcripts?
Twitter user @Techno_Fog, who is a New York attorney, published the transcripts in a long Twitter thread over the weekend. He included eloquent lawyer commentary on the showdown.
Read that entire thread by clicking here or via the following tweet:
I got my hands on the May 4 transcript from the USA v. Manafort hearing in front of Judge Ellis. (Thanks to a close… https://t.co/CEz2bGVkrt— Techno Fog (@Techno Fog) 1525537225.0