A defense attorney in a court filing says special counsel Robert Mueller has disclosed he has no evidence that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort communicated with Russian government officials.
Ellis withheld ruling on the motion and will issue a written ruling at a later date. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to both indictments.
The judge also gave the government two weeks to hand over the unredacted "scope memo" or provide an explanation why not - after prosecutors were reluctant to do so, claiming it has material that doesn't pertain to Manafort. "You really care about what information he might give you about Mr. Trump and what might lead to his impeachment or prosecution".
If the attorney is accurate, it delivers another credibility blow to the Democratic Party-financed dossier, which accuses Mr. Manafort of orchestrating Trump-Russia collusion.
Lawyers for Manafort asked the judge in the Virginia case to dismiss an indictment filed against him in what was their third effort to beat back criminal charges by attacking Mueller's authority.
Whether Manafort colluded with Russian government officials as Russia was trying to meddle in the 2016 USA election.
Manafort is facing charges in Virginia and Washington.
The judge's unusually provocative remarks and questions don't necessarily indicate how he will rule, but they put Mueller's team on the defensive.
Manafort's lawyers argued at a hearing Friday in Alexandria, Va., that the charges are far afield from Mueller's mandate to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether any collusion occurred.
Government lawyer Michael Dreeben said the special counsel's mandate is broad, and that Manafort fits within that jurisdiction because of his connections to both the Trump campaign and to Ukrainian and Russian officials.
Ellis, a Ronald Reagan appointee, challenged Mueller's team over whether the Virginia case arose out of its own investigation or whether it picked up on a previous investigation into Manafort's consulting work the USA attorney's office in Alexandria conducted.
Ellis was equally blunt in saying there must be limits on Mueller's authority.
"I've been saying that for a long time", Trump said.
"So I would love to speak", he told reporters. He noted that the law authorizing the special counsel was passed to replace the old independent counsel law, which was derided for allowing overbroad, yearslong investigations during the Reagan and Clinton administrations. "It's unlikely you're going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything her or she wants".
He has also added an attorney from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia to his legal team for the case: Uzo Asonye, who prosecuted Norfolk treasurer Anthony Burfoot.
The judge also pressed prosecutors on why they referred the investigation of Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen to federal prosecutors in NY, while retaining the Manafort case.