Judges have a reputation for being strict and no-nonsense. But by all accounts, TS Ellis III, who is presiding over the trial of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, is in a league of his own. Here’s a roundup of his most notable moments in the trial so far:
The Smartest Guy In The Room
Ellis apparently likes to establish his intellectual dominance in the courtroom:
Privately, lawyers who have appeared before him say Thomas Selby Ellis III likes to be seen as the smartest person in the courtroom, not a huge leap for a judge. With his Princeton-Harvard-Oxford education and experience spanning consequential cases in an era of war and terrorism — “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh’s among them — Ellis is known to cut lawyers down to size, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much.
During a discussion about offshore bank accounts in Cyprus — specifically Nicosia, the largest city on the Mediterranean island — Ellis jumped in to correct Greg Andres, the assistant special counsel. “I’ve been to Greece, not to Cyprus. But I think they pronounce it Nicosia,” Ellis said, with an emphasis on the “O.” Later in the day, Asonye articulated the city’s name differently. “I was wrong?” Ellis said sarcastically. “I don’t know how to pronounce it?”
‘Rein In Your Facial Expressions’
Ellis set the tone early on in the trial, chastising the lawyers for reportedly rolling their eyes after speaking with him:
“Lawyers on both sides need to rein in their facial expressions,” Ellis said Wednesday morning. “It’s been reported to me that lawyers on both sides upon leaving the bench, roll their eyes, communicating to those who are watching them, essentially, ‘Why do we have to put up with this idiot judge?'”
The prosecution routinely found themselves curtailed by Ellis, particularly when it came to describing Manafort’s spending habits:
Ellis regularly interjected during witness testimony on Wednesday, keeping Manafort’s wealth and purchases from being illustrated in especially rich detail. “That’s enough,” Ellis said when a prosecutor asked Katzman to total the annual invoices for those five years for the jurors’ benefit. “They can add.” Prosecutors pushed back hard against Ellis’ claims in a court filing overnight, arguing “that Manafort had an expensive lifestyle that required lots of money to maintain is important proof as to why he would commit the bank frauds.”
‘You’re A Little Slow’
Court broke for the day after Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye was twice cut off by Judge Ellis from asking what were deemed questions for an expert only. The first time, after Ellis said “he can’t testify as an expert,” defense attorney Kevin Downing got up to make an objection to that effect. “You’re a little slow,” Ellis said with a laugh.
‘There’s Tears In Your Eyes’
Things seemed to come to a head on Tuesday, when Ellis and prosecutor Greg Andres got into a particularly heated back and forth:
The most heated moment of the debate, however, took place when Ellis got perturbed by Andres not looking up at him while speaking.
“Look at me! Don’t look down,” Ellis demanded.
Then, when Andres responded that he was looking at a relevant document, the exchange grew testier.
“You looked down as if to say ‘that’s B.S.!’” Ellis said. “I’m up here!”
Tensions at the Paul Manafort fraud trial grew so heated Monday that the judge suggested that one of Robert Mueller’s prosecutors was crying during a discussion out of the jury’s earshot, according to a transcript of the proceedings. “I understand how frustrated you are,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said during the discussion. “In fact, there’s tears in your eyes right now.” When Prosecutor Greg Andres protested that he didn’t have tears in his eyes, the judge shot back: “Well, they’re watery.”