Skip to main content

Not Long After Correcting Himself, Manafort Judge Ticked Off Team Mueller All Over Again


For the second morning in a row, Robert Mueller and his prosecutors are requesting that the federal judge presiding over the Paul Manafort trial in the Eastern District of Virginia correct himself in front of the jury.

On Thursday, Judge T.S. Ellis III was asked by Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors to correct himself in front of the jury and he did so, saying, “This robe doesn’t make me anything other than human. You [the jury] [hav]ve got to put that aside.” By Thursday afternoon, however, Ellis had done something else that the prosecution apparently didn’t like.

According to Politico‘s Josh Gerstein, prosecutors filed a written motion Friday for the second day in a row, asking Ellis to correct himself.

Ellis criticized the prosecution Thursday afternoon after it spent 40 minutes questioning a witness about Paul Manafort’s apparent failed attempt to get a $5.5 million loan.

While the jury was present, Ellis said this to Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye: “You might want to spend time on a loan that was granted.”

Asonye sprung out of his seat and said, “Your honor, this is a charged count in the indictment.”

“I know that,” Ellis returned.

As we learn this, Ellis has halted proceedings until the afternoon. According to Talking Points Memo, Ellis called in the jury and instructed them to keep an open mind about the case. He said he had to “underscore” that point. Ellis reportedly spent the morning engaged in “a series of private discussions with both parties’ attorneys at his bench.”

As Law&Crime’s Colin Kalmbacher reported of the courtroom happenings on Wednesday, Judge Ellis appeared to have forgotten that he had allowed a witness to sit in and hear testimony.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said he would “check the transcript,” believing that Ellis had granted permission. Ellis replied: “Well, let me be clear: I don’t care what the transcript says. Maybe I made a mistake. But I want you to remember don’t do that again. When I exclude witnesses, I mean everybody. Now, it may be that I didn’t make that clear.”

The next morning, Mueller prosecutors filed a motion, requesting that Ellis cure the prejudice his “sharp reprimand of government counsel in front of the jury” may have caused:

The United States of America, by and through Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III, hereby moves for a curative instruction, at the beginning of proceedings on August 9, 2018, correcting the court’s erroneous admonishment of government counsel in front of the jury on August 8, 2018. The record demonstrates that the Court mistakenly faulted the government for permitting IRS revenue agent Michael Welch, the government’s expert witness, to remain in the courtroom during the proceedings, when in fact on the first day of trial the Court has expressly granted the government’s motion to do so. The Court’s reprimand of government counsel suggested to the jury—incorrectly—that the government had acted improperly and in contravention of Court rules. This prejudice should be cured.

This is far from the only time Ellis’ courtroom comments have raised eyebrows.

[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

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