- Associated Press - Thursday, May 10, 2018

A federal judge did not rule that special counsel Robert Mueller overstepped his authority by bringing charges against a former Trump campaign chairman, contrary to an article circulating the internet.

U.S. Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III did ask pointed questions about Mueller’s authority at a pretrial hearing Friday in Alexandria and suggested that prosecutors’ true motive was to get Paul Manafort to “sing” against the president. But he issued no ruling.

The online site Republic Information published a story that mischaracterized the judge’s actions, headlined: “Federal Judge Slaps Mueller Down, Rules He Overstepped His Prosecutorial Power.”

In reality, the judge withheld a ruling on a motion by Manafort’s defense lawyers to dismiss tax and bank fraud charges.

Ellis plans to issue a written ruling at a later date.

Manafort’s lawyers had argued that the charges against him are far afield from Mueller’s mandate to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether any coordination with associates of President Donald Trump occurred.

The judge said another remedy would be to simply hand the case back to regular federal prosecutors.

“I don’t see what relationship this indictment has with what the special counsel is investigating,” Ellis told government lawyers.

Although Ellis suggested Mueller is pursuing Manafort to pressure him to turn against Trump, he also noted that such a strategy is a “time-honored practice” for prosecutors and not necessarily illegal.

The Virginia indictment alleges Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine from the Internal Revenue Service, money earned from 2006 through 2015. The indictment accuses Manafort of fraudulently obtaining millions in loans from financial institutions later, after his Ukrainian work dwindled. Prosecutors say that part of the conspiracy stretched from 2015 through January 2017, including the months while he was working on the Trump campaign.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.


Find all AP Fact Checks here: https://www.apnews.com/tag/APFactCheck

Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck

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