By Dan Calabrese
The word does not appear to have reached Judge T.S. Ellis that Robert Mueller is a sacrosanct figure of reverence who can never be criticized or questioned in any way. That is the attitude of entire political class and the media, but Judge Ellis doesn’t seem to care.
And that’s a problem for Mueller because Ellis is the judge assigned to the trial of Paul Manafort. Now Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, is charged with all kinds of things that have nothing to do with “collusion with Russia,” but so far he’s the only significant figure Mueller has charged with anything, so Mueller’s credibility rests a lot on the ability to make the charges against Manafort look legitimate.
Advertisement - story continues below
And that’s where they keep running into trouble with Ellis. It happened a few months ago, and it happened again yesterday:
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III specifically pushed Andres on why the prosecution was moving slowly with Rick Gates – the former Manafort business partner who testified on Monday – and specifically to describe the link between wealthy Ukrainian politicos and Manafort. Ellis argued that the connection was not the basis of the case.
“What matters are the allegations that he made money from them and didn’t report it,” Ellis said. “You don’t need to throw mud at these people.”“I don’t know if they are bad or good. And I don’t care,” Ellis argued, reiterating his previous claim that the prosecution seemed to be focusing not on the actual charges but on what he considered “political contributions.”
Ellis again compared the Ukrainians in question to American billionaires and “Mr. Koch and Mr. Soros” as political contributors.
“I don’t know why you keep bringing (up) these people,” Andres said, referring to the Ukrainians. “These people are not like any Americans. These people are oligarchs and that means they control a segment of the economy based on the governments allowing them to do that.”’
“These are not really political contributions,” he continued. “They are self-serving payments with respect to what oligarchs do.”
“That makes it even clearer to me that it doesn’t have anything to do with the allegations in this case,” Ellis responded. “It throws dirt on these people. They may deserve it. I don’t know – and I don’t care.”
At another point in the exchange Andres could be heard challenging Ellis on a technicality. “Respectively, judge, that is not what the law is,” Andres responded bluntly at one point.
The most heated moment of the debate, however, took place when Ellis got perturbed by Andres not looking up at him while speaking.
“Look at me! Don’t look down,” Ellis demanded.
Then, when Andres responded that he was looking at a relevant document, the exchange grew testier.
“You looked down as if to say ‘that’s B.S.!’” Ellis said. “I’m up here!”
It’s been clear for some time that Judge Ellis is skeptical the prosecution has much of a legitimate case against Manafort, and that he’s losing his patience with Mueller’s prosecution team.
Now, there are two ways you can look at that. If you’re also a skeptic of Mueller’s team, you can nod your head with satisfaction that someone who knows the law isn’t fooled by their nonsense. If you think Mueller is doing the Lord’s work on the other hand, you might think a biased judge could become the basis for an appeal if the case doesn’t go their way.
Advertisement - story continues below
The problem with that is that you can’t appeal an acquittal. If Ellis’s instructions to the jury result in Manafort being found not guilty, that’s it. You can’t subject Manafort to double jeopardy.
I am not enough of an expert on the law to know if Ellis’s criticism is valid, but from my lay perspective, what it sounds like is that Andres is trying to tar Manafort by association by making the people he was dealing with sound shady, while Ellis is countering that the only thing that matters is whether Manafort failed to report the income, not who he got it from.
In other words, Ellis wants Andres to stick to the facts in the case, not engage in character assassination of the players involved.
If Mueller can’t even get a conviction of Manafort, he’s really going to have a hard time justifying his entire investigation. That might, of course, incentivize him further to go for broke in finding something to indict Donald Trump for. Which is probably impossible, and will almost certainly come off every bit as ridiculous as it is.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!
The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.