President Donald Trump celebrated during his speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Friday after District Judge T.S. Ellis III criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort.
Ellis, who certainly appears to be angling to make Trump happy, suggested federal prosecutors are abusing their power and claimed that the case against Manafort is a ploy to oust Trump
“It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special counsel has unfettered power to do whatever he wants,” the Reagan-appointed judge told prosecutor Michael Dreeben on Friday, adding that he thinks the Justice Department is “not really telling the truth” about the case.
Frankly, Ellis’ remarks make it clear that he already has a bias against the prosecution in this case and can’t be relied upon to hear it fairly.
But Trump appreciates Ellis for that very reason, which is why he praised him during his NRA speech, and even went so far as to quote from a CNN story to inform his audience of what the judge said.
“Judge T.S. Ellis, who is really something special I hear from many standpoints – he is a respected person – suggested the charges before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia were just part of the Mueller team’s designs to pressure Mr. Manafort into giving up information on President Donald Trump or Russia’s involvement in the campaign,” Trump said. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a witch hunt. Then, none of that information has to do with information related to the Russian government or coordination with the campaign of Donald Trump. Then, ‘how does this have anything to do with the campaign?’ the judge asks.”
Here’s the video via YouTube.
Manafort is currently on trial on charges of conspiracy against the United States, bank fraud, money laundering, and failing to register as a foreign agent.
Mueller did not just indict Manafort to pressure him to flip on Trump. He charged him because he committed federal crimes. But it sounds like Judge Ellis is already preparing to undermine Mueller’s case and Trump is politicizing Ellis’ words for his own benefit. Ellis should recuse himself and let another judge take over.
Of course, Trump did miss one piece of crucial information that was revealed in court on Friday.
As explained by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, when Ellis asked if Manafort’s case can be turned over to local prosecution like Mueller did when he referred the Michael Cohen case to the Southern District of New York last month, prosecutor Dreeben responded:
“The special counsel’s office takes very seriously the primary mission it was assigned in examining Russian interference in the 2016 election,” adding that Mueller would refer any unrelated criminal activity to local prosecutors.
In short, Dreeben suggested that the current charges against Manafort are related to Russian interference in the 2016 Election, which means Ellis should not be insinuating that Mueller’s case against Manafort falls out of the scope of the Russia probe.
But, again, Ellis appears to be acting more like an advocate for Trump instead of being an impartial judge. And since Trump tends to reward people who back him, it’s worth keeping an eye out for any future judicial promotions Trump may offer Ellis, especially if Ellis continues trying to undermine Mueller’s investigation. After all, judges don’t have “unfettered power” either.
Featured Image: YouTube screenshot