Almost since the day Robert Mueller was appointed, I have been pointing out that Mueller has gone rogue and is employing a scorched earth strategy to get Trump, on anything.

The Paul Manafort prosecution on things having nothing to do with the reason Mueller was appointed, alleged Russia collusion, is a good example, as was the prosecution of Michael Flynn. There will be bodies left on Mueller’s battlefield from those unfortunate enough to have associated with Trump or the campaign.

Last night I reiterated that point in my post, Manafort lawyers: Mueller “has not produced any materials” showing Manafort contacts with Russians:

But that gets back to one of the original sins of the prosecution of Manafort — It was beyond the scope of Mueller’s authority when the investigation started and the raid on Manafort’s home took place. That Order of appointment has never been changed.

Mueller and Rod Rosenstein attempted to bootstrap authority in an August 4, 2017 memo, we previously discussed in Rosenstein Memo confirming Mueller could investigate Manafort came a week after raid on Manafort’s home:…

Rosenstein purporting to interpret the original Order of appointment is not in fact a change in the Order. Mueller’s authority is as it was when he was appointed, and that plainly does not include matters completely unrelated to alleged Russian collusion or crimes committed in the course of the investigation. Neither of those situations applies to the prosecution of Manafort.

The problem with this post hoc authority is that it also calls into question the integrity of the Mueller operation:

The August 2, 2017 memo was classic boostrapping. It purported to confirm Mueller’s authority to go after Manafort’s business dealings, but Mueller already was doing that and had been doing it for weeks, culminating in the July 26 home raid.

So to the extent the Rosenstein August 2, 2017 memorandum is supposed to instill confidence that Mueller is receiving proper DOJ oversight, it does just the opposite. As least as to the portion revealed about Manafort, it shows a willingness to give post hoc justification for conduct of Mueller that does not appear authorized by the text of the original May 17 appointing Order.

Mueller has no business prosecuting someone for matters completely unrelated to alleged Russian collusion. After-the-fact expansion of authority by Rod Rosenstein, which did not change the appointing Order, cannot change that.

Mueller is torturing Manafort through these indictments without appropriate authority. That might be because Mueller thinks he can flip Manafort against Trump, or because Manafort’s refusal to cop a plea has so infuriated the Mueller team that they are going to make an example of Manafort.

In either case, Mueller needs to be limited to his actual authority. Hopefully the courts will do that, because it’s clear that Rod Rosenstein will not.

This morning in court on Manafort’s motion challenging Mueller’s authority to prosecute the bank fraud case, the Judge lashed out at Mueller and made some comments that echo the points I’ve been making all along.

We don’t have a transcript, but we do have multiple news reports. From The Washington Post (emphasis added):

A federal judge in Virginia on Friday grilled lawyers from the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about the motivations for bringing a bank and tax fraud case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” Judge T.S. Ellis III said during a morning hearing. “You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.”

Manafort was seeking to have the bank and tax fraud charges against him dismissed in federal court in Alexandria, with his lawyers arguing that the alleged crimes have nothing to do with the election or with President Trump.

Ellis agreed, but he made no immediate decision on the defense motion. He said even without such a connection the special counsel, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, may well still have the authority to bring the charges.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington in November.

I’m not saying it’s illegitimate,” Ellis said.

CNN reports:

Ellis repeated his suspicion several times in the hour-long court hearing. He said he’ll make a decision at a later date about whether Manafort’s case can go forward.

“We don’t want anyone in this country with unfettered power. It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants,” Ellis told Dreeben. “The American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power.”

When Dreeben answered Ellis’ question about how the investigation and its charges date back to before the Trump campaign formed, the judge shot back, “None of that information has to do with information related to Russian government coordination and the campaign of Donald Trump.”

At one point, Ellis posed a hypothetical question, speaking as if he were the prosecutor, about why Mueller’s office referred a criminal investigation about Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen to New York authorities and kept the Manafort case in Virginia.

They weren’t interested in it because it didn’t “further our core effort to get Trump,” Ellis said, mimicking a prosecutor in the case.

It doesn’t sound from the reports that the Judge is likely to quash the prosecution, but at least some truth was spoken.

Mueller is out to get Trump. It’s that simple. It’s not an investigation, it’s a hunt, and Trump is the hunted.