On the TS Ellis Show and the Lies about Lying

The last words in the transcript of the hearing held Friday in Paul Manafort’s Eastern District of Virginia bank fraud and tax crime case go like this:

THE COURT: Mr. Asonye, I’m glad to see you here.

MR. ASONYE: I’m glad to see you as well, Your Honor.

Uzo Asonye is an Assistant US Attorney in EDVA who has prosecuted fraud cases before TS Ellis. Mueller’s team added Asonye to the EDVA case at the suggestion of Ellis. Ellis returned to his pleasure that Mueller had heeded his suggestion several other times over the course of the hearing, starting from his first comment after Michael Dreeben introduced himself.

THE COURT: Okay. And, Mr. Asonye, I’m glad to see you here. I indicated that the special counsel should have local counsel, and that’s you.


MR. DREEBEN: The second point here is that we are within the Department of Justice. To the extent that Mr. Manafort is suggesting that we’re analogous to the independent counsels that operated under the old statute, that’s not right. Our indictment was reviewed and approved by the Tax Division, by the National Security Division. We operate within a framework of the Department of Justice. We’re not different from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in that respect. We’re all part of the same Department of Justice.

THE COURT: You resisted my suggestion to have someone here, and Mr. Asonye showed up. When did you ask Mr. Asonye to join you?


MR. DREEBEN: Thank you, Your Honor. We took your admonition to heart, and we are very happy to have Mr. Asonye join us.

THE COURT: Good. I think that’s important for communications as well. Plus, you never know. If you have to try this case, you will have to try it before me. Mr. Asonye has some experience here. Is that right, Mr. Asonye?

MR. ASONYE: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: And before me as well.

MR. ASONYE: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: So he can tell you some interesting things.


THE COURT: Of course, the difference is that if you did assign it to the Eastern District of Virginia, it wouldn’t come, Mr. Asonye, with a $10 million budget; would it?

You wouldn’t know that though, because most of the reports from the hearing have focused on exchanges like this, from Fox News:

Mueller’s team says its authorities are laid out in documents including the August 2017 scope memo – and that some powers are actually secret because they involve ongoing investigations and national security matters that cannot be publicly disclosed.

Ellis seemed amused and not persuaded.

He summed up the argument of the Special Counsel’s Office as, “We said this was what [the] investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying.”

He referenced the common exclamation from NFL announcers, saying: “C’mon man!” [my emphasis]

To be sure, Ellis was undeniably confrontational with Dreeben, in this and several other exchanges. But the Fox line, which it picked up from early reports, tells a distorted view of the hearing (even ignoring Ellis’ well known schtick of being confrontational in the court room).

First, the Fox representation is factually inaccurate in two ways. Here’s the transcript of the exchange Fox claims to have quoted directly.

DREEBEN: So it is not really appropriate to assume that the (b)(i) description is the factual statement that the regulations contemplate.

THE COURT: Well, I understand your argument, but let me characterize it and see if you find it as satisfying as you appear to indicate that you think it is: We said this is what the investigation was about. But we’re not going to be bound by it, and we weren’t really telling the truth in that May 17 letter.

I don’t watch pro football, but I used to enjoy the program that came beforehand where a bunch of players would get on and essentially make fun of everybody. But they would put on some ridiculous thing, and then they would all say in a chorus, Come on, man. [my emphasis]

Ellis was referring, explicitly, to the May 17 letter appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel and not, as Fox suggests, the August 2 Rosenstein memo that lays out what the Deputy Attorney General had included in Mueller’s scope by that point in time. The distinction is significant for the matter before the court, a two-part argument Manafort made that 1) the initial Mueller appointment was limited to Russia’s tampering and obstruction thereof, but the permission in the appointment to investigate anything “arising out of” that Russia investigation — which this prosecution had to be — was improper, and 2) that the August memorialization of Mueller’s authority incorporating the Ukrainian money laundering did not authorize this indictment because Mueller had improperly claimed the pre-existing investigation arose out of, rather than was subsumed into, the Russia investigation.

In a dispute in which the first issue is the memo appointing Mueller, Ellis is accusing Rosenstein of not incorporating everything he appointed Mueller to do in his May 17 statement, which Dreeben explained was done to hide the scope of the counterintelligence concerns from targets. That’s a claim backed by the government’s brief and the public Rosenstein testimony it cites.

Recognizing the need for confidentiality about the investigation, id. at 30, the Acting Attorney General “discussed that with [the Special Counsel] when he started” and has continued to have “ongoing discussion about exactly what is within the scope of his investigation,”


The regulations do not provide that the factual statement must be made public.

The government brief argues that, because of his role in the campaign and his ongoing ties to Russians — including Oleg Deripaska, by name — the Manafort investigation falls under the original grant of authority. They make the “arises out of” argument only secondarily.

[E]ven assuming that paragraph (b)(i) does not cover all of the conduct charged in the Indictment—and, in the government’s view, it does—the conduct would fall within the scope of a matter that “arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Ellis’ concern that Rosenstein didn’t lay everything out in that first memo or might be hiding an ulterior motive of flipping Manafort go to two concerns that Dreeben (and Asonye’s presence) addressed head on. First, Ellis was concerned the Mueller team might be asserting it had unlimited power.

What we don’t want in this country is we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. We don’t want federal judges with unfettered power. We don’t want elected officials with unfettered power. We don’t want anybody, including the president of the United States, nobody to have unfettered power. So it’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me that the special prosecutor has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants.

Though (again, given his reputation for beating up the side he plans to decide with) this line might be better understood as Ellis wanting to demonstrate a concern with the possibility that Mueller might think he has unfettered power.

Note, he includes the president in there.

Ellis also misstated, right as the discussion started, that the special counsel was not the government.

Let me ask the government — or not the government — the special counsel a few questions, Mr. Dreeben.

In correcting Ellis’ suggestion Mueller was not representing the government, Dreeben clarified that the Special Counsel was not operating under the Independent Counsel law that Ellis had elsewhere raised and seemed to be thinking of when suggesting they didn’t represent the government.

This is not the Independent Counsel Act that Your Honor was referring to in the conference that you spoke of. This is not a separate court-appointed prosecutor who’s operating under statutory independence. We are within the Department of Justice. We’re being supervised by an acting attorney general who has conferred upon us specific jurisdiction and who regularly is in a position to describe to us the metes and bounds of that.

To further establish this point the government notes — in both their brief and the hearing — that the Mueller team worked closely with the rest of DOJ in bringing the charges.

As explained above, every key step in this case has been authorized by the Acting Attorney General through ongoing consultation. Additionally, under the applicable rules, the Tax Division approved the tax-related charges. See 28 C.F.R. § 600.7(a) (Special Counsel must comply with DOJ rules, regulations, procedures, and policies); USAM § 6-4.200 (Tax Division must approve all criminal tax charges). And the Senior Assistant Special Counsel in charge of this prosecution is a long-time, career prosecutor with the internal authority to conduct this prosecution, separate and aside from his role in the Special Counsel’s Office.

While Ellis certainly made a public show of scolding the Mueller team claims, he did so in a hearing bracketed by his observation that Mueller had already done something — bring in Asonye — to assuage Ellis’ concerns about operating outside of normal DOJ procedure.

And while I hesitate to predict how Ellis will rule, I find the bracketing of the entire hearing with a focus on Asonye significant for two reasons. First, Ellis’ proposed remedy, if Mueller’s investigation were invalid, was to have EDVA prosecute the case (to which Downing suggested that that would make the search of his storage facility and home invalid, which for better and mostly worse is not how fourth amendment rulings work).

THE COURT: Let’s assume for a moment your argument that this delegation is in some way illegal. Why isn’t the right result simply to give to the Eastern District of Virginia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office — give it back to them and let them prosecute this indictment? Why isn’t that the right result?

MR. DOWNING: Well, the right result may be for the Department of Justice to finish the investigation they had started and make a determination as to whether or not to charge Mr. Manafort. But if, in fact, this order is defective, then Mr. Mueller did not have the authority of the U.S. Attorney to conduct a grand jury investigation, to get search warrants, or to return and sign an indictment.

THE COURT: All right. I think I understand.

Additionally, although many Manafort partisans view Ellis’ order that Mueller’s team give him an unredacted copy of the August 2 Rosenstein memo laying out everything that could be investigated as of that date as victory for Manafort, that actually falls far short of what Downing wanted, which was to have any other documentation showing the discussion behind appointing Mueller and approving subsequent steps thereafter.

MR. DOWNING: Just briefly, Your Honor. The one thing we would ask this Court to do before deciding the motion before the Court is to ask the government for what anybody who has had any experience with the Department of Justice knows exists, which is the written record. Where is the written record before Mr. Mueller was appointed? Where is the written record about the decision —

THE COURT: What do you mean by the written record?

MR. DOWNING: Mr. Rosenstein had a process he had to go through in order to determine that there was a conflict that gave rise to the appointment of special counsel, the specific matter that the special counsel was going to investigate in any additional jurisdiction he granted. It would all be written down somewhere. That’s how the Department of Justice works.


THE COURT: All right. Is that what you’re — the record of identifying the conflict?

MR. DOWNING: I believe identification of the conflict, the matter that needed to be referred to a special counsel in order to — because of the conflict and the scope of the special counsel’s investigation, including any additional jurisdiction.

THE COURT: The May and August letters are the scope.

MR. DOWNING: That’s after the fact. You would expect that the Department of Justice, especially Mr. Rosenstein, would have had a memo before.

THE COURT: Why do you say that?

MR. DOWNING: Because in the Department of Justice generally, just in any situation —

THE COURT: Did you serve in the department?

MR. DOWNING: Fifteen years, five of which was under Mr. Rosenstein’s management. Mr. Rosenstein is a stickler for memos being written, for there to be a written record for the actions of the Department of Justice

In Rosenstein’s testimony and the government’s brief, they actually identify what the latter documents are: Urgent Reports documenting each major step, surely including the two searches on Manafort’s property.

The Special Counsel has an explicit notification obligation to the Attorney General: he “shall notify the Attorney General of events in the course of his or her investigation in conformity with the Departmental guidelines with respect to Urgent Reports.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(b). Those reports cover “[m]ajor developments in significant investigations and litigation,” which may include commencing an investigation; filing criminal charges; executing a search warrant; interviewing an important witness; and arresting a defendant.

So Downing specifically asked for (though not by name) the documentation that would have shown the back and forth discussions between Mueller and Rosenstein (and would have reflected Mueller’s compliance with the Urgent Reports requirement.

And Ellis didn’t grant that request. He asked only for the August 2 memo, not the Urgent Reports. That’s unsurprising — asking for the latter would have been a fairly breathtaking incursion on prosecutorial discretion.

But that suggests, at least thus far, Ellis is treating what he’s seeing as proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

54 replies
  1. dc says:

    Marcy, you are so good at laying this out in clear, logical terms.  Thank you for your work.  Donating today.

  2. yogarhythms says:

    IANAL. Reading various News sites: local, national, international, TV, print, twitter, I have been intrigued by recent legal venues seeming imballance tilting in favor of Palace. The rigorous examination of relevent court documents in several legal venues by EW thread levels the legal scale of evidence and theory back to ballance and is profoundly satisfying. PS excellent Allez, Advertissement too trolls.


  3. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Downing is phishing for info. Many others are too. But it sure looks like he is conflating EDVA Grand Jury with DC Grand Jury. And EDVA Grand Jury is pre-Mueller.

    MR. DOWNING: Well, the right result may be for the Department of Justice to finish the investigation they had started and make a determination as to whether or not to charge Mr. Manafort. But if, in fact, this order is defective, then Mr. Mueller did not have the authority of the U.S. Attorney to conduct a grand jury investigation, to get search warrants, or to return and sign an indictment.

  4. TheraP says:

    I see an “indent” at the very end.  But no quotation?

    Either I am clueless about how to read that “indent” – or something is missing.

    (Please let me know if it’s me – with a screw missing.)

  5. Bruce says:

    Thank you for putting together all the information and presenting it in what I believe to be an honest way. I’m including all your posts. I enjoy reading them and am grateful for the work you obviously put into them. 👍🏻

  6. SteveB says:

    Very helpful analysis.

    You have put meat on the bones of the suspicion that the judge was putting the prosecution through its paces to lay down markers “This is my court and I say what goes: the only person who gets to throw their weight around in my court room is me”.

    DIsplays of Judicial curmudgeonliness , and the by play that comes with it, is one of the pleasures of being on the bench, and observable from Southwark to San Diego and beyond I’m sure.

    • BroD says:

      This display of Judicial curmudgeonliness has the feel of a deliberate exercise, laying the groundwork for a decision favoring the prosecution.

  7. Frank Probst says:

    I think the main point Ellis made that got the most news is that the motivation for the indictment of Manafort was/is primarily to obtain his cooperation in Mueller’s probe, NOT because these crimes were discovered during the course of the investigation, and the government is just following through on them.  I think this point is undeniably true.  Mueller’s team clearly IS trying to get Manafort to “flip”.  But that point has no bearing on whether or not the indictment falls within the scope of Mueller’s mandate.  I think it’s pretty clear that it does.  And Ellis’ request for the unredacted memos is VERY bad news for the defense, because they’re likely to show that Mueller’s probe isn’t about getting dirt on Trump.  It’s part of a fairly large counterintelligence investigation (which even Trey Gowdy admits) that is about as far from a “witch hunt” as you can get.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      As you note, ‘request’. I have looked and looked but have yet to find a ‘so ordered’ by Ellis.

      Maybe intentional by the Judge. The two week thing may just be a loose guideline. Possibly to be ignored by DOJ for as long as needed.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Good luck with that.  If you promise it in open court, especially in a case of this magnitude, you would be wise to comply, ahead of schedule if possible.  That applies to Asonye, in particular, as this is his home turf.

          • bmaz says:

            Federal judges, especially in DDC and EDVA have no issue whatsoever in dealing with classified information. None, not a concern in the least.

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              Right. Yep. Hence no ‘so ordered’.

              They ‘agreed’ (DOJ) to give Ellis what he wanted, but not, as Marcy noted, what Downing wanted.

              No avenue of appeal at this time on that angle.

              How can Downing (Manafort) argue against the Judge that he did not ask for what they hoped he would ask for?

              Downing would have to argue that Judge Ellis was not following his hint in an order that does not even exist. Good luck with that.

              Downing and others are phishing for info, trying to determine what all of investigations are really about.

              I smell a leak problem in EDVA and suspect Ellis knows of it.

  8. JacobLadder says:

    I find this analysis shockingly lacking in awareness. What Ellis essentially has done is called into question the entire Mueller probe, accusing the Mueller staff of trying to have it both ways: employing Title 1 tactics and privileges in conducting what’s obviously a Title 3 investigation (especially in Manafort’s case). This is indeed a conundrum, and doesn’t bode well for the prosecution moving forward.

    • bmaz says:

      You don’t appear in front of federal judges on criminal cases much I presume. This type of probing and cantankerousness is quite common. And by all reports from people that know Judge Ellis and practice before him in EDVA, it is quite a common schtick (as Marcy termed it) for him. And, yet, he has had a rather long and distinguished career on the bench. Saying it “calls into question the entire Mueller probe” is absurd.

      We don’t know how Ellis will rule, but I wouldn’t get too hyperbolic yet.

    • emptywheel says:

      Can you explain how Ellis’ proposed remedy if he finds for the defense–having EDVA prosecute this–would put the prosecution in jeopardy?

      • JacobLadder says:

        By prosecution I am talking about Mueller’s staff. Their case would be in jeopardy, and Ellis has already questioned their authority to prosecute Manafort given their mission statement. This does not refer to EDVA.

        btw it might be worth nothing that three judges this week have challenged Mueller in some way.


        • bmaz says:

          This is an, um bizarre, take at best. First off the only judge who has “questioned” Mueller’s authority to prosecute, at best, is Ellis. And he is famous for this little passion play. Or did you not read my response above? Or do you just not care about what is really going on? And, yes, Ellis does, indeed, refer to EDVA, it is the only real jurisdiction he has got. Any other mental meandering by Ellis is completely irrelevant.

          Who are the other two judges you blithely refer to Jacob? And how have they “challenged” Mueller? And, by the way, judges considering motions filed by the defense, however weak, is NOT “questioning”.

          I’ll be waiting.

          • JacobLadder says:

            There must be a news black-out here or something. Besides Ellis, Judge Berman basically just suggested Mueller overstepped his bounds (Politico just did a story about it: “Judge raises doubts about scope of Mueller’s authority”). And now Judge Friedrich has just denied Mueller a trial delay — apparently Bob’s staff is in a bit of a tizzy because the Russians at Concord decided to challenge his indictment of those 13 Facebook trolls. Guess Mueller didn’t see that one coming.

            The point is, things look a little different for Mueller than they did a week ago.

            btw I said the judges challenged Mueller in different ways, not just his authority to prosecute. And now I await your spin — er uh, reply.

            • greengiant says:

              Sucks for Trump Putin that foreign intervention in US elections is illegal. Headlines are purposely misleading to bait more clicks.

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              Think ‘baiting’.
              Friedrich and Berman Jackson may be ‘baiting’.
              For legitimate legal reasons.

              Check the poll results on Faux Noise tonight.

        • emptywheel says:

          So you grant that, given Ellis’ public comments, Manafort’s prosecution looks like it will go forward in either case? So a paper case, that will put him away for the rest of his life, and you’re declaring victory bc Mueller might not prosecute this part of it?

          • JacobLadder says:

            This isn’t about some “victory” for Manafort, simply that federal authority to charge him is now challenged. I’ve never claimed he couldn’t be tried still by EDVA (in fact Ellis sarcastically wonders why this isn’t happening vis a vis Cohen). In fact this is much bigger than Manafort’s case — Ellis is basically telling Mueller he’d best stick to the scope mandate in indicting anyone.

            What people seem to miss is the fact that Mueller is conducting a counterintelligence — not criminal — investigation. As I alluded to in my original post, this means the Special Counselor must run it as directed. This is why Ellis asks what authority Mueller has to bust Manafort for bank fraud. I think you can see this, right? It’s a major sticking point for Mueller’s staff they apparently didn’t see coming — quite surprising given the large staff legal minds assembled here.


            • bmaz says:

              Hahaha, “in fact” you are completely full of it. For starters, there is no “Judge Berman”, as you referred to above, that would be Judge Amy Berman Jackson. But, if you really knew this material, you would know that. Instead, here you are, pitching bunk. We have a LOT of your type lately, sad to say.

              Also, “Special Counselor”?? Now you are just clowning yourself. The rest of your comment is meandering shit.

              You don’t gots to go home, but you need to get on out of here.

              • JacobLadder says:

                Care to do something besides seize on the trivial to avoid admitting I was right about the three judges? I think Ms. Berman counts whether we use her full or maiden name.

                And I don’t think you get to decide who stays or goes here, so you can stop it with that delusion.

                • bmaz says:

                  Um, no, I think you and your baloney are that of an idiot. One more time, repeat after me, THERE IS NO JUDGE BERMAN. That is Judge Amy Berman Jackson. And you are irrationally and delusion ally contorting and twisting everything you attempt to argue. And you’d be surprised at what I can accomplish in who stays and who goes. But, then, I have been here as an editor from day one over a decade ago, and you are just an uninformed interloper. Got any other wisdom, Jacob?

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              “This is why Ellis asks what authority Mueller has to bust Manafort for bank fraud.”

              He can ask, but remember that EDVA Grand Jury is pre-Mueller. Ellis knows that.

              Just because he asks does not mean he does not already know the answer. It is to get it in the record.

    • Avattoir says:

      Lost track decades ago of all the post-oral-argument postmortems I’ve been in. Mostly court counsel learn early on there’s no point or value to worrying over them: if you can’t afford or stand to lose, then don’t play the game.

      But clients and assorted other civilians never really get the chance to build up immunity, so they have this tendency to fall prey to One  Of The Classic Blunders: Never fight a land war in Asia get into guessing games over supposedly deep hidden meaning behind the dated wit, tell-you-what-I-seen-it-all asides, why-in-my-day dubiously provident guided tours down memory lane issued gratuitously from some old dude with the power to jerk your chain.

      I don’t care if he’s your relation in the home, increasingly over time yours truly, or some over-75 post-active-list buffalo bull who plays favorites with the locals (and, BTW, isn’t that Uzo Asonye a nice polite handsome young man, who, if I think back to my early daze in government service, seems so well brought up to shower his elders with indulgence & tolerance & for some ‘mysterious’ reason finds himself invited often over to judges chambers for nothing in particular just philosophic discussions and fat chews; I mean, for those without this experience, recall that Obama dedicated an entire chapter of his second book to describing with special affection his multiple attendances on and pleasant deeply civilized even ennobling hours spent in the company of Senator Byrd in the latter’s chambers, especially concerning his senior’s annotated Senate Rules the many Lessons gained from his Long Life.), there’s no escape because they spend 100% of their time being them and you don’t.

      (There may not be a more hackneyed yet utterly true to life vignette repeated over time and across regions in the courthouses of America, than the senior clerk or manager of a courthouse complex telling you, Look, I know for certain how to get Judge Focalength off the phone to meet with you: ever so briefly poke my head across Hizzoner’s line of sight, and him being “curious as a cat” is bound to hang up, and say, ‘You want me for something, Miz Jackson?’ Watch and learn’.)

      Record makes Drebeen look REAL good on his feet.

      • bmaz says:

        Your first paragraph is why I basically quit talking to jurors after trials after about the first ten or so. It rarely helps explain anything, and it will drive you fucking batty.

        • Avattoir says:

          Yeah, another dimension for exploring that, in my experience anyway, came from participating as a practice resource and/or demonstrator in various Law School advocacy programs and in bar association-sponsored public-outreach ‘law daze’. In most of those, the jurors are functioning players in the exercise and student advocates can openly review with “jurors” what led – or at least what they’re capable of articulating that they THINK led – to their “votes” and “verdicts”.

          Which can be absolutely terrifying.

          Fortunately, the biggest terrors tend to lie not so much in those experimental juries’ overall verdicts, but in some of the individual jurors’ attempts at rationalizing their votes. One is driven to become a YUGE fan of crowd-sourcing, group-think and the dynamics that conclude in consensus.

      • matt says:

        This is incoherent rambling.  Though I love the vocabulary and idioms… makes absolutely no sense at all.

        • Avattoir says:

          Well, that may be due to ‘idiom’. It can help some to be maybe not quite so dependent on a Russian / English translation book.

      • orionATL says:


        man, this is some good, and funny, writing, including:

        “…Never fight a land war in Asia get into guessing games over supposedly deep hidden meaning behind the dated wit, tell-you-what-I-seen-it-all asides, why-in-my-day dubiously provident guided tours down memory lane issued gratuitously from some old dude with the power to jerk your chain…” :)

        look at it this way, if one lives long enough though, one may then become another self-annointed fount of wisdom, freely donating life-wisdom to naifs and lawyerly whippersnappers in long, ernest monologues. if only the dopes would listen ….

  9. SteveB says:

    @ BroD

    As a complete outsider, I am not qualified to comment on the judge or the habits and traditions of advocacy involved within that jurisdiction, but I would not be surprised in the least.

    Given that a fellow judge (Berman) has an unredacted version of the authorisation memo under seal in her court in a related matter, I can see why Ellis might be inclined to insist on the same courtesy and deference.
    To my mind it is quite reasonable for judges to engage in a degree of posturing for the puposes of asserting and maintaining their authority within particular proceedings or more generally. They are clever bastards facing cunning and clever bastards every day, and how well a spectator has read the cut and thrust of advocacy mid argument can often only be assessed after the court has actually ruled.
    Judges often push the bounds of argument to get a better sense of the robustness of the central core, and to ascertain the degree of confidence they might employ in dispatching this or that countervailing point.

    • Avattoir says:

      Fine: that, and the fact that many willful old dudes with some grip on power insist on not being treated like potted plants.

      (I actually think my hypothesis is more likely the driving force behind Judge Ellis’ demand, than your admirably lofty hypothetical rationale.)

  10. M says:

    Naturally, this all a reading of the legal tea leaves but Ellis seemed particularly dissatisfied with the scope and Mr. Dreeben’s line of supporting argumentation. If Mr. Dreeben is correct that the redacted portion of the memo has nothing to do with Mr. Manafort, then it’s somewhat hard to see the judge changing his starkly elucidated position on this. It would be interesting to know the status of the prior DOJ investigation–for instance, was it dormant or inactive?

    My quick read of the transcript resulted in at least one great line by Ellis “…so it was written by lawyers but it is not judicially enforceable?” lol.

  11. orionATL says:

    what the hell is all this noise about judge ellis’ comment?

    of course the doj prosecutor’s are trying to squeeze manafort. that is what prosecutor’s do. the judge knows that as well as he knows his name. prosecutor’s start with the littlest fish and work up the feeding chain whereever gangs of indiciduals are involved. there is nothing unusual about that.

    what is refreshing though is that judge ellis would say openly in court what other lawyers would only whisper to each other. but then, he’s the judge :) .

    what’s the likely outcome? i don’t have a clue. but to me this sounds like a very experienced, shrewd judge attempting to advertise some independence of mind in a politically loaded case. perhaps he observed judge k. wood’s situation and her saavy handling of it

    what the judge (by reputation) cannot and will not ignore is the key issue of whether there is good reason to believe manifort broke some law or another on the one hand, and, on the other, whether he is protected by some legal constraints on the power of the state, like statute of limitations.

    in general, i am willing to guess that the doj is in good shape with this judge as long as they stay within the rules.

    what the good judge may or may not not have considered is that he gave the rightwing propaganda machine (involving murdoch properties, breibart/mercer properties, sinclair teevee stations, and clear channel radio) excellent material with which to do some fine propagandizing. they jumed at the chance. i suspect the judges remarks will echo for a long time.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      He should not have made the ‘Sing’ comment.

      He should show impartiality.

      (maybe it was a hint to Manafort)

      And maybe Ellis already knows the big picture and does not really need to see the classified memo, nor need to go to SCIF.

    • orionATL says:

      what former star prosecutor (for giuliani) james comey had to say about judge ellis’ media quote:


      “… Comey added that pressuring Manafort to reveal what he knows about Trump does not invalidate the charges against Manafort.

      “There’s all kinds of goals — and they’re not inconsistent — in criminal investigation and prosecution,” Comey said. “You obviously want to bring wrongdoers to account, but if possible — let’s say you’re working a corporate fraud case. You want to get the chief financial officer, if he’s been involved in criminal wrongdoing, but you also would like to know what the truth is, from him, about others in the company. And so they’re not inconsistent goals. And I would hope every prosecutor, when they prosecute a defendant, wants to know, ‘Does he know things that could bring other people to account?’ ”…”

  12. Mitch Neher says:

    Judge Ellis gave it just as good to Downing as he gave it to Dreeben. But the thing that really got my attention was Judge Ellis raising the specter of invoking The Classified Information Procedures Act. I suspect that Manafort would have far more to fear from CIPA than to gain from it. And, in any case, I took the mere mention of CIPA as an indication that Judge Ellis is ready for Manafort to go to trial.

  13. SteveB says:

    @ OrionATL

    Re giving Fox et al talking points

    As and when Manafort gets hammered at trial its much harder for anyone within and without the proceedings to claim he was railroaded by the DeeeeepState if the judge has been manifestly robust in considering all his legal points (no matter how frivolous or ill concieved the judge might privately consider them)

    • orionATL says:


      though not a lawyer, i think your comment is “right on”, as we say. i have twice had occasion to observe closeup a very wise judge who astonished me with his balanced decision making as well as his thoughtful social commentary – smashed up my judge stereotypes.

      i appreciate your comments here; they bring interesting info and perspective, e.g, participation in the discussion of “crown prosecutor”.

      • SteveB says:


        I very much appreciate the thoughtful and thought provoking insights found here, and hope I constructively contibute to the conversation.

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