ALEXANDRIA, Va. – After jurors were dismissed Monday in the Paul Manafort trial Monday, the federal judge overseeing the case and prosecutors trying the former Trump campaign chairman got into an extended verbal debate — lasting about 10 minutes — over the merits of the prosecution, the length of the case and even the eye contact of prosecutor Greg Andres.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III specifically pushed Andres on why the prosecution was moving slowly with Rick Gates – the former Manafort business partner who testified on Monday – and specifically to describe the link between wealthy Ukrainian politicos and Manafort. Ellis argued that the connection was not the basis of the case.
“What matters are the allegations that he made money from them and didn’t report it,” Ellis said. “You don’t need to throw mud at these people.”
“I don’t know if they are bad or good. And I don’t care,” Ellis argued, reiterating his previous claim that the prosecution seemed to be focusing not on the actual charges but on what he considered “political contributions.”
Ellis again compared the Ukrainians in question to American billionaires and “Mr. Koch and Mr. Soros” as political contributors.
“I don’t know why you keep bringing (up) these people,” Andres said, referring to the Ukrainians. “These people are not like any Americans. These people are oligarchs and that means they control a segment of the economy based on the governments allowing them to do that.”’
“These are not really political contributions,” he continued. “They are self-serving payments with respect to what oligarchs do.”
“That makes it even clearer to me that it doesn’t have anything to do with the allegations in this case,” Ellis responded. “It throws dirt on these people. They may deserve it. I don’t know – and I don’t care.”
At another point in the exchange Andres could be heard challenging Ellis on a technicality. “Respectively, judge, that is not what the law is,” Andres responded bluntly at one point.
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!”
Manafort, 69, faces tax evasion and bank fraud charges as he is accused of hiding a “significant percentage” of income earned from his Ukrainian work from the IRS. He also is accused of fraudulently obtaining millions more in bank loans, including while he was working on the Trump campaign.
Held in Alexandria, Virginia, the case is the first for Special Counsel Robert Mueller since his appointment to oversee the Russia investigation in May 2017. It started on July 31 and is expected to last about three weeks.
Both Manafort and Gates were indicted last October, accused in a multimillion-dollar money-laundering conspiracy tied to lobbying work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party.
Mueller dropped the 22 tax and bank fraud charges against Gates after the former business partner of Manafort agreed to plead guilty.
Another three hours of Gates testimony, according to Andres, is scheduled for Tuesday.
Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.