(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump applauded a federal judge who questioned whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller overstepped his authority in his prosecution of Paul Manafort, and expressed sympathy for his former campaign chairman.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, expressed skepticism on Friday that the scope of Mueller’s authority allowed him to sign an indictment against Manafort for bank and tax fraud. Ellis questioned whether Mueller, appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, could prosecute financial crimes dating back a decade without also charging Manafort for crimes related to the election.
“Judge T.S. Ellis -- who is really something very special, I hear from many standpoints, he is a respected person,” Trump said, reading from a news article at the NRA’s annual conference in Dallas, “Suggested the charges before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia were just part of the Mueller team’s designs to pressure Mr. Manafort into giving up information on President Donald Trump or others in the campaign.”
“I’ve been saying that for a long time,” Trump continued. “It is a witch hunt.”
Continuing to read from the article, Trump said “none of that information has to do with information related to the Russian government coordination and the campaign of Donald Trump.
“It doesn’t have anything to do,” Trump said. “It’s from years before. Then how does this have anything to do with the campaign, the judge asks? Let me tell you, folks, we’re all fighting battles, but I love fighting these battles.”
Trump called Manafort “a nice guy” but also said he was part of his campaign for “a very short period of time.”
“Literally for like, what? Like a couple months? Little period of time,” Trump said, adding that Manafort had also worked for Reagan, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Senator John McCain. “Does anybody say that? No. But he’s out there fighting.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.