In the trial of Paul Manafort, the chairman of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, there has been a furious back-and-forth between federal prosecutors and US District Judge T.S. Ellis that the right has seized on, in many cases running all-day commentary on brief exchanges during the proceedings suggesting that the prosecution may be executing their case incorrectly.
Those reports came to a screeching halt today as prosecutors gave Judge Ellis a taste of his own medicine in the form of a filing demanding an in-court clarification, which Ellis later provided along with an apology for his behavior toward prosecutors.
In the Alexandria, Virginia courtroom where the case has now stretched to eight days of discovery, Judge Ellis has repeatedly chastised the government’s team over even small slights. On Wednesday, he may have let his zeal to seem impartial toward Manafort get the better of him as he unleashed a brief tirade against the prosecution for allowing an IRS Agent to be present in the courtroom while waiting for his opportunity to testify.
“Don’t ever do that again,” the Judge had told the prosecution — in front of the jury — despite the fact that he had already agreed to the arrangement on the very first day of proceedings.
On Thursday, prosecutors asked that Ellis provide “curative instruction” to the jury and essentially take back what he had said. Ellis, realizing his error, complied:
I may have made a mistake. It has nothing to do with your consideration in this case.”
In another instance, the prosecution objected to Ellis’ seemingly lenient treatment of a defense lawyer’s transgression of an agreement he had entered into not to bring up star witness Rick Gates’ extramarital affairs. All parties had agreed the affairs were irrelevant to the case, but the defense still brought it up in front of the jury. The Judge ordered the question, which Gates did not answer, stricken from the jury record — but offered no condemnations like those he has laid on the prosecution throughout the trial.
According to reports, the prosecution expects to put the final touches on its case by the ends of the week.
Featured image via William Hennessy Jr