As the trial of former Donald Trump campaign advisor Paul Manafort drags on, two things are slowly becoming clear:
1) Paul Manafort comes off as an unbelievably, almost comically shady guy.
2) Presiding Judge T.S. Ellis sure sounds like a kind of a dick.
Allow me to call your attention to exhibit A (a little courtroom humor for you all, ha ha): This incredibly weird exchange between Ellis and prosecutor Greg Andres after clashing over whether the court was blocking questions to Manafort’s former protege Rick Gates, in the interest of moving the case along quickly.
Per court transcripts, obtained by Bloomberg:
Ellis: Look at me when you’re talking to me.
Andres: I’m sorry, judge, I was.
Ellis: No, you weren’t. You were looking down.
Andres: Because I don’t want to get in trouble for some facial expression. I don’t want to get yelled at again by the court for having some facial expression when I’m not doing anything wrong, but trying my case.
Ellis [to another prosecutor]: You must be quiet.
Andres: I’m sorry, judge.
Ellis: Well, I understand how frustrated you are. In fact, there’s tears in your eyes right now.
Andres: There are not tears in my eyes, Judge.
Ellis: Well, they’re watery.
First of all, if Free to be You and Me has taught us anything, it’s that it’s all right to cry. But perhaps more importantly—what in the hell kind of weird, macho psych-out maneuver is this? Might as well just call him a “crybaby” and steal his lunch money while you’re at it.
The exchange, bizarre as it seems, isn’t necessarily all that surprising. Ellis, who was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, is described by CNN as taking “special delight in toying with attorneys.
According to a number of attorneys who spoke with the network, Ellis “appears to learn toward conservatism,” although largely carries his personal politics close to the chest. This past spring, Ellis seemed frustrated with the Special Council in regards to the case, saying pointedly: “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud.” Instead, he suggested, what the prosecutors were “really interested in” was President Trump.
In any case, day two of Rick Gates’ testimony focused largely on the mechanics of the “crimes” he admitted yesterday to having committed with and on behalf of Manafort, such as creating money-obfuscating shell companies, and falsely describing income as “loans” to avoid paying taxes.
And, ultimately, when it was all said and done, Ellis appeared to have no hard feelings toward Andres, who apologized for being disrespectful.
“Don’t worry about it,’’ Ellis said. “I’m not concerned about that at all. I remember trying cases.”
Wow, peace in our time.