The controversial judge in the trial of President Trump’s ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort said he’s received threats and had to start traveling with bodyguards.
Judge T.S. Ellis’s disclosure came in response to a request by media outlets to reveal the names and addresses of the 12 jury members — six men and six women — which Ellis refused on the grounds of protecting their safety.
The jury, meanwhile, had a different sort of issue to air out. On their second day of deliberating Manafort’s fate — weighing a decision that could have profound implications for the near future of American politics — they asked to get out early, by 5 p.m. sharp, because one of them has Friday evening plans.
The jury now expects to return Monday morning to continue reaching for a verdict, as observers wait on the edge of their chairs for their decision.
Manafort has been charged with 18 counts of financial crimes, and the case is widely seen as a crucial test for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has repeatedly blasted the probe as a biased “witch hunt,” and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has called for Mueller to wrap it up.
Judge Ellis said Friday that the case has become so heated he himself has been threatened, and is now being protected by deputy U.S. Marshals.
“They go where I go,” Ellis said. “I don’t even go to the hotel alone; I don’t give the name of the hotel.”
A consortium of news outlets including CNN, the Washington Post, The New York Times, and BuzzFeed had asked Ellis to reveal sealed portions of the trial, and divulge the names of the jurors.
Ellis’s role in this case has provoked controversy. His frequent jousting with prosecutors has caused some commentators to say he may have crossed the line into improperly siding with the defense.
“He disparaged the prosecution's evidence, misstated its legal theories, even implied that prosecutors had disobeyed his orders when they had not,” Nancy Gertner, a retired U.S. District Court judge in Massachusetts, wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Thursday.
Earlier Friday, President Trump himself weighed in with sympathy for his former campaign chairman.
“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn. “When you look at what is going on, I think it’s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time, but you know what? He happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”
READ MORE COVERAGE FROM THE TRIAL:
- Rick Gates spills the beans on the super-rich Ukrainians who paid Paul Manafort millions
- Manafort has a new scapegoat in his defense against Mueller
- The wise-cracking judge in Paul Manafort’s case may be starting to chill out
- Manafort's accountants appear just as confused about his finances as you are
- Rick Gates says he did crimes with Paul Manafort and stole his money
- Rick Gates can’t remember if he stole money from Trump’s inaugural committee
Cover image: This courtroom sketch depicts Rick Gates on the witness stand as he is cross examined by defense lawyer Kevin Downing during the trial of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on bank fraud and tax evasion at federal court in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. U.S. District court Judge T.S. Ellis III presides. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)