The Mueller probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians had a setback on Friday when a federal judge questioned if special prosecutor Robert Mueller had exceeded his authority in the investigation.
“It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unfettered power to do whatever he wants,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told Michael Dreeben, a deputy solicitor general assigned to the investigation.
“This is a big deal,” Congressman Bradley Byrne said on social media commenting on the exchange. “Mueller does not have the unlimited scope that he seems to think he has. As we approach the one year anniversary of the Special Counsel’s appointment, I believe it is important for this investigation to conclude and let our country move forward.”
Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has been indicted on tax fraud and bank fraud charges related to his previous work for a pro-Russian president of Ukraine.
Ellis questioned whether Mueller exceeded his authority in filing the charges against Manafort. Ellis said the indictment appeared to be a way for Mueller to leverage Manafort into providing information about Trump.
“The vernacular is to sing,” he said.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” the judge said. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead to Mr. Trump.”
Manafort’s attorney have asked the judge to dismiss the charges against him.
He also has been faces charged in Washington of conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation. Responsibility then fell on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein made the decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special prosecutor.
The president has been highly critical of both Rosenstein and Mueller. The investigation has not produced any charges against the president and little concrete evidence that collusion ever occurred, but there is a suggestion that perhaps the investigation is morphing into an investigation into obstruction of the investigation.
Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.