What Judge Ellis Is Telling Us at the Manafort Trial

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RUSH: I’ve been meaning to talk about this since I first learned of this late yesterday afternoon. I want to preface this. This is the story about the judge in the Manafort case admonishing the prosecutors. Have you heard about this story? It would really, really help you to understand the importance of this story if you had read Licensed to Lie by Sidney — don’t fail me now — where is this great memory? She’s the lawyer that’s written this book about the Enron task force and the Ted Stevens trial. I’m having a mental block on her last name. Somebody’s going to start screaming at me here in a minute. But cutting to the chase on it, this book exposes — Sidney Powell, that’s it, Sidney Powell.

This book exposes the corruption and the corrupt procedures of certain people in the Department of Justice, in the pursuit of all of the defendants in the Enron trial and Ted Stevens. The book details how so many people were literally railroaded, innocent people were put in jail, denied bail, unfairly charged, innocent people, just so that these lawyers could put notches in their belts and pad their resume or whatever. It just makes you mad as hell when you read the book.

It turns out that many of the lawyers that she identifies as being on the Enron task force and the Ted Stevens trial are on Mueller’s investigation team. Many of these lawyers that have donated to Hillary and hate Trump and so forth are some of the same people, not all of them, but some of the same people who were on the Enron task force who have been upbraided by a federal judge. They were called out. They were investigated themselves. They got a taste of what being on the other side of investigation feels like and is, and they didn’t like it one bit.

So when I read about the trial and some of the admonitions that the judge, T.S. Ellis, threw out at some of the prosecutors yesterday, it all made perfect sense having read the book and understanding how these people operate. In the Ted Stevens case, for example, one of the prosecutors — well, the prosecution team actually suborned perjury among their star witness. They actually asked their star witness to lie about records involving Ted Stevens and a construction project to upgrade his house or his office or something.

It’s outrageous the stuff that we are assured does not happen. The Department of Justice, the prosecution, already wins 95 percent of its cases. That’s how the deck is stacked against you; if you are a federal defendant, you have a five percent chance of winning. These people don’t have to cheat. They don’t have to suborn perjury. They don’t have to lie about the accused.

So let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. The headline here: “Mueller Team Lectured By Judge in Manafort Case — Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors were lectured by a federal judge on Wednesday for the language they’ve used in the courtroom and more, as the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort entered its second day. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III specifically told prosecutors to stop using the word ‘oligarch’ to describe wealthy Ukrainians, whose dealings with Manafort are at the heart of the fraud charges he faces in northern Virginia federal court.”

Now, we’ve even made mention of this here. We joked that every Russian that is named in this Russian meddling in the election story is referred to as an oligarch. The reason for it is that the term has been used so much that it has been poisoned. And your average news consumer hearing the word oligarch is going to think of already somebody who is criminal, who is powerful beyond reproach, who is a friend and associate of Vladimir Putin and is a general all-around bad guy who happens to be obscenely wealthy. In other words, there’s nothing good about an oligarch. An oligarch has become synonymous with tyranny.

The judge knows this. The judge told Mueller’s prosecutors: stop using the term. It has no relevance here. You’re doing nothing but poisoning the minds of the jury and I’m not going to let you get away with it in my court.

Well, this is a minor example, but it is an example of some of the stuff that was done in the Enron trial. Do you know how many of those Enron trials were overturned, by the way? Four out of five of them, I think, were overturned to one extent or another, maybe not in their entirety, but elements of each trial were overturned because of prosectorial misconduct. But nobody knew about that because once the convictions came down to the jury there everybody was high-fiving and celebrating and the DOJ was notching its belt and so forth, and celebrating themselves as a bunch of good guys going after the bad guys and getting bad guys off the street and protecting the American people.

And a bunch of people, ancillary people, who had nothing to do with any of the Enron crimes were actually convicted or spent months and years in jail having done nothing. It’s the kind of stuff, when you read her book, it’s the kind of stuff you do not think happens in this country, if you’re naive, like I guess I am.

So when I saw this story about the judge admonishing these prosecutors and knowing that many of them come from the Enron task force like Andrew Weissmann. And, by the way, Christopher Wray, the FBI director, was the guy who ran Weissmann during the Enron task force. These guys are all thick as thieves. And they all have their techniques for securing victory that rely on the fact that defendants have no power and no way to refute the power of the Department of Justice or the prosecution team.

Another thing the judge said is that this term, oligarch, is pejorative. It unfairly categorizes the defendant in ways that are irrelevant. He cautioned that using the word could suggest that Manafort is associated with bad people, guilty by association, before they’ve proved anything, and he’s not going to let guilt by association happen in his courtroom. He said, “It’s not the American way.” He said, you want to talk about oligarchs, you could say George Soros is an oligarch. You could say the Koch brothers are oligarchs. The way you’re using the term, you’re not going to be permitted here.

The Clintons might be a better example. The judge specifically said the word oligarch could give jurors the impression that Manafort was consorting and being paid by people who are criminals, and that there will be no evidence about that. If you have evidence, show it. But if you don’t have evidence that he was engaged with criminals who paid him, then don’t start calling the people he was dealing with oligarchs.

Folks, this judge, T.S. Ellis, by the way, is known for these kinds of things in his courtroom. He doesn’t put up with this kind of trick from either side. He’s been known in the middle of questioning to tell a prosecutor to take it somewhere else; it’s not going to happen in his courtroom. He’s been known to shut down various tactics that he thinks have nothing to do with the pursuit of justice, unique in that way.

“The Mueller team was later rebuffed again by Ellis when they tried to introduce photos that eventually would become public of Manafort’s closets filled with suits and high-end clothing.”

Now, it’s part of their effort to paint Manafort as somebody who didn’t pay his taxes, but the judge said, “Having money is not a crime in this country; having a lavish lifestyle is not a crime.” He said, “Enough is enough. We don’t convict people because they have a lot of money and throw it around.” But, judge, we do, we did it in the Enron case and we did it in the Ted Stevens case. And we’ve probably done it in a whole lot of other cases, not to mention the silly process crimes where the defendant hasn’t done diddly squat except tell two different stories to two different investigators and, bammo, there’s a lie. You lied to federal investigators, six months in jail, see you in half a year.

Process crimes are especially — that’s why people can’t believe anybody would let Trump get anywhere near Mueller. Do you realize, folks, that you can tell an interviewer, you can tell an FBI agent or a lawyer investigating, you can tell him the 100 percent truth, and if they have another witness that gives a different story, they can accuse you of lying. If you’ve told the truth. That’s how broad the statute is. It’s that broad. You can tell the truth, and if they find another witness, how hard would that ever be, tell a different story, even if it’s by one sentence, they can charge you with lying. The charging is what matters. Once they charge you, how many trillions of dollars do they have backing them up if you decide to fight it? How many trillions of dollars do you not have?

So I don’t know if these admonitions are enough to indicate the direction of the trial, but I mean they’re trying to say that — well, here Byron York tweeted it out pretty well – “Show that Manafort worked in the Ukraine, number one. Number two, show that Ukraine put money in Manafort overseas accounts. Number three, show that Manafort used those accounts to buy expensive stuff. Number four, show Manafort didn’t pay taxes on the money –” the judge said, forget the first three. If you say he didn’t pay his taxes, go there. Let’s see the evidence. Get on with it. The fact that he’s got ostrich suits is irrelevant here.

The fact that he has a lot of money — prosecutors tried to say to the jury this man spent $900,000 on suits in a year and a half, as though that’s a crime, as though there’s something really, really suspicious. And you know how easy it would be, as much as class envy and resentment has been used in politics in this country to get up there and say this defendant, who has already been portrayed as a scum bucket, has $900,000 in suits. That’s more money you’ll make in your life. And this guy has these suits in his closet $900,000, some of them have ostrich feathered collars. “Oh, man, is that guy guilty. Damn right. Nail that guy and throw away the key.”

That’s what the prosecutors are attempting to secure in judiciary attitude. That is what this judge will not permit. This is the kind of stuff they got away with, and do all the time, from what I understand, in the Enron trials in the Ted Stevens case. And it seems to be common practice. I mean, every lawyer or law firm or, in this case, the Department of Justice, they all have policy manuals. They all have tried-and-true methods to win, to secure convictions, if you’re prosecutors. And there are countless studies on how to get the jury to convict if that’s what you want. And this judge is simply not putting up with it.

Now, I also have a theory that this judge is a little bit aware of what’s going on in his courtroom, because he’s already said to Mueller, “You don’t really care about this defendant. You want the president of the United States. And you want to put pressure on this defendant to flip on the president. I know what you’re doing here in this courtroom.” And he was on the verge of throwing the case out. He demanded to see the charge letter that Rosenstein had given him defining his purpose, the memorandum that supposedly laid out the crimes that had been committed that Mueller was to investigate.

Except there weren’t any crimes, it was always a counter-intel investigation. After the fact, like months after Mueller had been investigating, Rosenstein wrote a backdated memo explaining to Mueller what his responsibilities were and what his latitude was. That’s what the judge saw. When the judge saw it, he kept it close to the vest. He decided not to throw the case out. So Manafort’s on trial. Mueller has to get a conviction here. He has to.

Now, something else has happened. Rick Gates, who was the partner of Manafort and all the stuff that happened in Ukraine and whatever, really when you get down to it they’re trying to get Manafort in not paying his taxes because that’s what they want to get on Trump. They want Trump so bad they can taste it. They want Trump. They can’t make him release his tax returns. They’re doing anything they to find out what’s in his tax returns because they have belief that Trump has no money. That he’s living a lavish lifestyle on loans and donations that he doesn’t have.

They want to expose him as a fraud, and they’re hoping and praying that the money that has propped up the Trump organization all these years is from Russia. This is what they believe. That’s why Manafort is on trial. Because Manafort had connections with the Ukraine, was paid a lot of money, didn’t pay his taxes. If they don’t convict Manafort, this whole thing is in jeopardy. And Manafort is on trial for things that have nothing to do with Trump’s campaign.

Manafort worked for Trump for less than three months, a little bit longer than three months, wasn’t even there long enough to go through a good bottle of Scotch. And they’ve got nothing. So Rick Gates was Manafort’s partner and they offered him freedom and immunity from all kinds of horrible things to get him to flip on Manafort. And all of a sudden they pulled him back as a witness because they realized, wait a minute, this guy’s got a credibility problem. He’s a liar. He’s a bad actor. And all of a sudden we’re going to ask the jury to accept what he’s saying as the truth, especially when they find out that he’s only saying what he’s saying because we are giving him immunity.

They pulled him back. So they don’t have the “we’re going to nail you witness” against Manafort. So now they’ve got their tried-and-true traditional practices of infecting the minds of the jury, which the judge seems to be riding herd on. But it still is gonna come down to whether or not they’ve got any evidence that Manafort didn’t pay his taxes. Manafort somehow — and there’s another trial in the DC circuit later this year, but this is the most interesting of the two. If Manafort somehow escapes here, and the odds are long, the DOJ wins 95 percent of the time, if Mueller doesn’t get this conviction, then it is very, very is problematic for him.

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