Manafort trial judge delays testimony for hours, without explanation

Judge T.S. Ellis III mysteriously delayed testimony in the case of ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for five hours on Friday, pushing off the day’s proceedings as prosecutors once again complained about his criticism of them. 

Later Friday afternoon, hours after proceedings were supposed to start, Ellis gaveled back in and called for the next witness to take the stand. He did not explain the delay.

The postponement was significant, as prosecutors had been hoping to finish calling witnesses Friday — and Ellis has a reputation as a stickler for keeping trials moving. 

It’s not clear if the delay was connected to the complaint filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Earlier, Ellis empathically reminded the jury that they must refrain from talking about the case with others – stoking speculation the delay could be related instead to juror issues. 

Ellis, meanwhile, did not address the Mueller team’s motion, either, when the trial resumed. 

In the motion filed Friday morning, they accused the judge of unfairly criticizing them in court, saying it’s possible his recent comments could “confuse and mislead the jury.”

Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann and other attorneys on the team specifically noted how Ellis made negative comments this week about their focus on a bank loan Manafort applied for but did not receive. 

“You might want to spend time on a loan that was granted,” Ellis said in court Thursday. 

The prosecutors, in Friday’s motion, asked Ellis to retract his comment, saying it “misrepresents the law regarding bank fraud conspiracy” and “improperly conveys the Court’s opinion of the facts, and is likely to confuse and mislead the jury.”

MUELLER TEAM FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST MANAFORT JUDGE OVER LATEST REPRIMAND

Manafort is accused of committing tax and bank fraud with millions made through political work in Ukraine. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Thursday, Ellis expressed regret after prosecutors filed a similar motion complaining Ellis unfairly reprimanded them in front of the jury over allowing a witness sit in the courtroom before his testimony.

“This robe doesn’t make me anything other than human,” Ellis said.

That truce between the judge and prosecutors, though, did not last long.

Hours later, when prosecutors tried to introduce an exhibit that was dozens of pages long, Ellis interjected: “There might be some kind soul on the jury who thinks they need to leaf through all this stuff — and it isn’t true.”

And then, Ellis instructed Mueller team to try and focus their questions, before joking prosecutors aren’t familiar with their own exhibits after they asked for a minute to pull out a piece of paper.

Ellis has a reputation for making colorful comments – and being tough on the prosecution.

On Wednesday, Ellis explained that he would not ask the defense to reveal as much information as he has demanded from the prosecution because “it’s sort of like poker — you don’t have to show your hand until you’re called.”

“Something like that, I’m not a poker player,” Ellis said.

Earlier this week, Ellis seemed to accuse Greg Andres, the prosecutor, of crying in his courtroom.

“I understand how frustrated you are. In fact, there’s tears in your eyes right now,” Ellis said Monday, according to a Bloomberg-obtained transcript.

When Andres denied Ellis’ claim, the judge said, “Well, they’re watery.”

Earlier this week, the prosecution’s star witness, Rick Gates – who struck a plea deal to cooperate with the government — testified that he and Manafort committed bank and tax fraud together.

The prosecution had been expected to wrap up its case by Friday afternoon. It’s unclear how Friday’s delay will affect that.

Fox News’ Anne Ball and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

 

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.