The first criminal trial of disgraced former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is set to begin later this month. He has tried to get around the legal scrutiny of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, but he has failed. Now, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis has granted Mueller’s request for immunity for five witnesses against Manafort, meaning that the deck continues to be stacked against the former political operative.
Judge Ellis also said that he would unseal the documents containing the witnesses’ identities. One of the witnesses had been thought to be former Manafort partner Rick Gates, who also worked on the Trump team for a time. Gates pleaded guilty to charges against him from Mueller earlier this year.
At the same hearing in which Judge Ellis granted the request for immunity for five witnesses, the ineptitude of the Manafort defense team was put on full display. Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing sought to argue for the start date of the Virginia criminal trial to be pushed back in order to give the Manafort team more time to review relevant documents in preparing their defense.
Prosecutors shared that they understood the Manafort defense team to have long already been in possession of the relevant materials, but Downing explained that at least some of them hadn’t been transferred after Manafort’s defense team makeup changed.
That left the judge scolding Downing, quipping:
‘Go to court and get the documents. They belong to your client.’
Downing replied that they had been banking on the materials being provided through discovery, since it’s “a lot cheaper” — and if that’s any indication of how the trial will go, Mueller may have a conviction of Manafort in the bag.