Judge Hits Manafort with No Good, Very Bad News, Then Allows Him to Sit Out Afternoon Session

Paul Manafort mugshot

Judge T.S. Ellis III has informed Paul Manafort that five of Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s witnesses will be granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.

Last Tuesday, Mueller requested immunity for five unnamed witnesses. Today, Monday, the judge has expressed his approval.

This is a big deal, as Law&Crime explained before. It’s not a good sign for Manafort that people are seeking and getting immunity before divulging information about him.

The witnesses said they would not take the stand unless they were guaranteed immunity. Mueller and his prosecutors had asked that filings containing information about these witnesses be sealed. Mueller said that sealing of these documents was necessary to protect the identities of “uncharged third parties,” to prevent “undue harassment,” and to prevent “reputational harm.”

Ellis ordered that the pleadings be unsealed, however.

The witnesses have been named as follows: Donna Duggan, James Brennan, Conor O’Brien, Cindy Laporta and Dennis Raico.

Also of note was that Manafort was in court Monday wearing his jail jumpsuit. The former Trump campaign manager was excused from appearing again in court this afternoon at the request of his lawyers.

Judge Ellis has been at the center of some of the biggest developments in Manafort’s pre-trial predicament.

Previously, Ellis ordered Manafort to be moved to the Alexandria Detention Center. Manafort’s attorneys complained that they were traveling long distances from their offices to Manafort’s jail cell. After the judge moved Manafort closer to Washington, D.C., the same attorneys complained that judge’s solution carried safety concerns. Not only did Ellis dismiss concerns about Manafort’s safety because the Alexandria Detention Center is “very familiar with housing high-profile defendants, including foreign and domestic terrorists, spies and traitors,” he also slammed the attorneys in a footnote:

It is surprising and confusing when counsel identifies a problem and then opposes the most logical solution to that problem. The dissonance between defendant’s motion to continue and motion opposing transfer to Alexandria Detention Center cannot be easily explained or resolved.

We’ve noted in the past that Ellis is an equal opportunity smackdown artist. Look no further than the words he uttered in May, challenging Mueller’s intentions in pursuing charges against Manafort as part of the Russia Investigation.

Ellis, a 77-year-old Ronald Reagan appointee, expressed skepticism that Mueller’s team actually cares about the former Trump campaign chairman’s alleged crimes, saying, “I don’t see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate.”

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud [ . . . ] What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment,” he continued.

The judge also said Mueller should not have “unfettered power” in the Russia probe.

“What we don’t want in this country, we don’t want anyone with unfettered power,” he said. “It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants.”

President Donald Trump seized on those words and said Judge Ellis “is really something special, I hear from many standpoints.”

Ellis has since ruled that Mueller is acting within the scope of his investigation in pursuing charges against Manafort. That ruling came after Ellis had read the unredacted U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein memo appointing Mueller to take over the Russia investigation.

[Image via Alexandria Detention Center]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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