As the trial of Paul Manafort continues to play out, everything is going in a surprisingly clinical manner – except for one even more surprising exception. The trial judge, long known for being something of a character, is now acting in almost cartoonish manner as he criticizes and berates Robert Mueller’s team. It’s become cause for concern, and it’s the talk of cable news. The judge’s ranting is noteworthy, but it means something different than one might initially expect.
It’s almost difficult to describe how over-the-top judge T.S. Ellis is behaving. At one point he exploded at the prosecution because it kept a witness in the room while another witness was testifying. When prosecutors reminded the judge that he had already agreed to this, he backed and apologized, and told the jury to disregard it. This is cause for concern. Should judges be acting like this in general? Is there something wrong with this guy? That’s for someone else to figure out. But I’m pretty sure this is good news for Mueller. Allow me to explain.
Judge Ellis has a history of playing devil’s advocate. We saw this during the pre-trial motions. The judge would say all kinds of negative things to Mueller’s team while they were presenting their side, but then he would rule in favor of Mueller every time. It was as if the judge wanted to cover his bases, so that no one could accuse him of having played favorites when he kept ruling for Mueller.
One week into the trial, it’s all too clear that Paul Manafort is going to be found guilty. The judge knows it. He knows that Manafort may appeal, and he knows that the eyes of history are watching. He seems almost desperate to make sure that, once Manafort is convicted, no one can say that he was playing favorites toward Robert Mueller. Is he taking it too far? Probably. But it’s a sign that everyone involved knows Mueller is going to win this trial.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report