The prosecution in the first trial resulting from the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation sure is lucky that the verdict will be handed down by a jury instead of Judge T.S. Ellis III.

Ellis, a Ronald Reagan appointee, clashed with government Prosecutor Greg Andres again on Monday in the second week of the federal trial of political operative and short-time Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, thus adding more fuel to the fire of displeasure the Judge has displayed toward the prosecution since the trial began.

Judge T.S. Ellis

Judge Ellis admonished Andres for asking superfluous questions about Ukrainian billionaires involved in that country’s politics. Andres responded in kind, leading to a lengthy heated argument in which the Judge repeatedly criticized Andres.

Gates Spilling?

The nastiness formed the backdrop for the first day of testimony by Manafort’s business partner Rick Gates, who admitted in open court to what he already confessed privately in cutting a deal with the prosecution: he broke the law – often in conjunction with Manafort, and sometimes for his own benefit.

Gates described years of illegal activity on behalf of Manafort while admitting that he flipped on his partner in order to hopefully receive a reduced sentence. According to Gates, he and Manafort had 15 foreign bank accounts they failed to report to the federal government, thus avoiding millions in taxes.

With the slowest news month of the year upon us, this trial is receiving undue attention.  Though Manafort did serve as then-candidate Trump’s Campaign Chairman for three months in 2016, the financial crimes with which he is charged in this case are unrelated to his relationship with the President. Nevertheless, this high-profile courtroom drama serves to keep the left’s collusion narrative in the news and serves as a crucial test of the credibility and efficacy of the special counsel probe. Failure to produce a guilty verdict would clearly weaken Mr. Mueller.

Applying Pressure

It seems clear that the Mueller team is interested in inducing first Gates, then Manafort, to hand them whatever damaging information they might have to offer on Trump. Whether Manafort will suddenly offer up dirt valuable enough to negotiate a deal to reduce his potential prison time or go free is as yet unknown, but there are no indications that he has provided any such information to date.

Far from ignoring this trial, the President went on offense last week on his favorite platform:

Gates is scheduled to testify further on Tuesday. Judge Ellis has made a point of speeding the proceedings along as quickly as possible in a trial that most observers have expected to last about two weeks.


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Tim Donner

Washington Political Columnist at

Tim is a radio talk show host, former candidate for the U.S. Senate, and longtime entrepreneur, Conservatarian policy advocate, and broadcast journalist. He is Founder and President of One Generation Away, LN’s parent organization.



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Washington Political Columnist