Judge in Manafort Trial Received Threats, Travels With Marshals

August 17, 2018 Updated: August 18, 2018

The judge presiding over the trial of veteran political consultant Paul Manafort said on Aug. 17 that he received threats related to the trial and was being protected by U.S. marshals.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis also rejected a motion by some news organizations to make public the names of the jurors, saying he was concerned about the jury’s “peace and safety.”

“I had no idea this case would excite these emotions … I don’t feel right if I release their names,” the judge said.

In an indication that the six women and six men of the jury may not reach a verdict on Aug. 17, they sent the judge a note asking that they be permitted to finish their work for the day at 5 p.m. because one juror has a social engagement.

President Donald Trump on Aug. 17 called the tax and bank fraud trial of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort “very sad” and described the defendant as a “very good person.”

Manafort’s trial in federal court in Alexandria is the first stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s 15-month-old investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election. Paul Manafort briefly worked for Trump’s campaign in 2016. The charges against Manafort are not related to Trump, Russia, or the campaign.

In remarks to reporters at the White House, Trump again called Mueller’s investigation a “rigged witch hunt.” The president declined to say whether he would issue a presidential pardon for Manafort.

“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad, when you look at what’s going on there. I think it’s a very sad day for our country,” Trump said.

“He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what? He happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”

Trump made his comments while the jurors deliberated behind closed doors on Friday morning, Aug. 17. The jurors met for about seven hours on Aug. 16 without reaching a verdict on 18 criminal counts Manafort is charged with.

As president, Trump has the power to pardon Manafort on the federal charges. He has already issued a number of pardons, including for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Asked by a reporter on Aug. 17 if he would pardon Manafort, Trump said, “I don’t talk about that now.”

Manafort, 69, faces five counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of failing to disclose his offshore bank accounts and nine counts of bank fraud. If convicted on all counts, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Jurors in the trial are not sequestered but have been instructed not to watch news reports or talk to others about the matter.

The jury sent a note on Thursday afternoon asking Ellis four questions including one about defining “reasonable doubt.” In a criminal case, a jury must find a defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

This was not the first time Trump commented on the trial. On the first day the jury heard testimony, Trump said Manafort had been treated worse than 1920s gangster Al Capone.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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