In a break with convention, President Donald Trump weighed in on a criminal trial as the jury considered a verdict on Friday, calling the tax and bank fraud case against Paul Manafort "very sad" and lauding his former campaign chairman as a "very good person".
While we can't be certain what the president is thinking, most would agree that it is in his best interest if Manafort does not agree to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators.
Trump said Friday at the White House that it was "a very sad day for our country".
"I had no idea this case would excite these emotions, I can tell you that frankly", Ellis said, as jurors continued their second day of deliberations in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. Of Mr. Manafort, he said: "He happens to be a very good person". At trial, Manafort's lawyers suggested their client might have believed he did not have to file such forms, because the companies in question were set up under his consulting firm.
The judge made the comment before telling spectators including journalists that he did not want them running out of the courtroom while the jury announces its verdict on the various counts.
In more than three decades on the bench, Ellis said he could recall only one or two cases in which he felt such concern for jurors' security.
Since the jury began deliberating Thursday, the defense has been expressing increasing confidence about its chances.
The government is not, Ellis reminded the jury, required to prove Manafort's innocence "beyond all possible doubt".
Judge T.S. Ellis revealed Friday that he has faced "criticism and threats" as he oversees the first trial in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.
Manafort is charged with 18 criminal counts of bank and tax fraud. Paul Manafort briefly worked for Trump's campaign in 2016.
Manafort's second trial, set to begin September 17, is expected to focus on charges related to alleged money laundering, witness tampering and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The note only asked Ellis if the jury could complete their work at 5:00 p.m.in order to accomodate an important event one of the 12 jurors wished to attend. The president declined to say whether he would issue a presidential pardon for Manafort. In a status report filed back in February, prosecutors did a preliminary calculation of how federal sentencing guidelines would apply to Manafort if convicted on all charges. A spokeswoman for the US Marshals Service did not immediately comment.
Despite frustrations, prosecutors were able to introduce hundreds of documents, including emails from Manafort himself seeming to acknowledge some of the financial misdeeds prosecutors say are at the heart of the case.
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