The federal judge presiding over the fraud trial of ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort rebuked Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team repeatedly on Tuesday, highlighting potential vulnerabilities in the first prosecution arising out of Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe.
The 78-year-old Reagan-appointed judge, T.S. Ellis, sent jurors out of the courtroom several times as he reminded prosecutors that Manafort is not on trial for simply having a “lavish lifestyle.”
Prosecutors have introduced a bevy of exhibits and are in the process of calling several witnesses as part of their effort to paint Manafort as a tax scofflaw who failed to report money spent on luxury items — then lied to obtain bank loans when his foreign consulting work dried up.
But the Mueller team was rebuffed by Ellis when it tried to introduce photos of Manafort’s closets, filled with suits and high-end clothing. Ellis noted that those photos would eventually become public fodder for the media.
“Enough is enough. We don’t convict people because they have a lot of money and throw it around,” he said.
He also dismissed an exhibit related to Manafort’s lavish spending: “All this document shows is that Mr. Manafort had a lavish lifestyle,” Ellis said. “It isn’t relevant.”
The judge said the photos would seem “unnecessary, irrelevant” and potentially “prejudicial.” Further, he reminded the lawyers that Manafort “is not on trial for having a lavish lifestyle, but for not reporting income on his taxes.”
The lawyers’ facial expressions, Ellis said, appeared to show them thinking, “Why do we have to put up with this idiot judge?” READ MORE: