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Federal Judge Burned Manafort in Footnote and Robert Mueller Clearly Noticed


Robert Mueller Paul Manafort blank subpoenas

Over the course of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s case in Virginia federal court, Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) Judge T.S. Ellis III has been an equal opportunity verbal smackdown deliverer. Just ask Manafort’s lawyers and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

If you’ve been following along closely as we have, you would notice that Mueller picked up on Ellis’ Wednesday footnote burn of Manafort and Co. and is using it to his advantage.

In an otherwise innocuous status report filing by Mueller Thursday in D.C. (where Manafort is also facing federal charges), the Special Counsel did not waste an opportunity to quote Ellis’ footnote rebuke of Team Manafort.

“On Wednesday, July 11, the Court denied the defendant’s request not to be transferred to the Alexandria Detention Center, noting that its July 10 Order to transfer the defendant was ‘intended to eliminate one of the defendant’s primary concerns in defendant’s motion to continue,'” the Mueller filing said. Then Mueller quotes the following words of the court: “[It] is surprising and confusing when counsel identifies a problem and then opposes the most logical solution to that problem.”

These were among Ellis’ words Law&Crime highlighted Wednesday:

It  is surprising and confusing when counsel identifies a problem and then opposes the most logical solution to that problem. The dissonance between defendant’s motion to continue and motion opposing transfer to Alexandria Detention Center cannot be easily explained or resolved.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who noticed the footnote.


Judge Ellis denied Manafort’s bid to stay put at the jail he is currently residing at and ordered him to be moved to the Alexandria Detention Center. Ellis appeared to be frustrated by Manafort’s attorneys when they expressed concerns with their client’s safety after the judge decided to ease travel burdens they complained about. Not only did Ellis dismiss concerns about Manafort’s safety because the Alexandria Detention Center is “very familiar with housing high-profile defendants, including foreign and domestic terrorists, spies and traitors,” he also jabbed at Manafort’s lawyers in the footnote referenced above.

When we say that Ellis is an equal opportunity smackdown artist, look no further than the words he uttered in May challenging Mueller’s intentions in pursuing charges against Manafort as part of the Russia Investigation.

Ellis, a 77-year-old Ronald Reagan appointee, expressed skepticism that Mueller’s team actually cares about the former Trump campaign chairman‘s alleged crimes, saying, “I don’t see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate.”

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud […] What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment,” he continued.

The judge also said Mueller should not have “unfettered power” in the Russia probe.

“What we don’t want in this country, we don’t want anyone with unfettered power,” he said. “It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything her or she wants.”

President Donald Trump seized on these words and said, as he does, Judge Ellis “is really something special, I hear from many standpoints.”

Ellis has since ruled that Mueller is acting within the scope of his investigation in pursuing charges against Manafort. It happened after Ellis had read the unredacted U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein memo appointing Mueller to take over the Russia investigation.

[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.