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Federal judge asks skeptical questions on Mueller's authority to bring charges against Paul Manafort

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A federal judge is asking skeptical questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's authority to bring charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on tax and bank fraud charges.

Manafort's lawyers argued at a hearing Friday in Alexandria, Virginia, that the charges are far afield from Mueller's mandate to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether any collusion occurred. 

Paul Manafort served with more than a half a dozen search warrants

The Virginia indictment alleges Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine from the Internal Revenue Service, all occurring years before Donald Trump ran for president. And there was a previous investigation into Manafort regarding his companies' business dealings before the special counsel had been appointed.  

Judge T.S. Ellis III suggested the real reason Mueller is pursuing Manafort is to pressure him to "sing" against Trump, and he posited that the special counsel was using the additional charges filed in Virginia to "tighten the screws" on the former Trump campaign chairman. "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud," Ellis accused Michael Dreeben, who was arguing for the prosecution. He replied that the charges had been "inherited by the special counsel" but had also been advanced by its investigators. 

During the proceedings, Ellis also informed the special counsel's office that he wants an unredacted version of the August 2 memo by Rod Rosenstein defining the scope of the investigation for the special counsel. Dreeben said he would have to ask for clearance from the intelligence community. Ellis gave him two weeks. The government has not made the document public, citing national security concerns.   

Ellis withheld ruling on dismissal of the indictment.  Manafort's trial in the Eastern District of Virginia is scheduled to be July 10.

Manafort is also charged in the District of Columbia.

CBS News' Clare Hymes contributed to this report.

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