Manafort Judge Reveals He's Been Threatened During Trial

Television cameras are set up outside of federal court as jury deliberations are set to begin in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Alexandria Va. Thursday Aug. 16 2018

Asonye "turned to the reporter with a smile", the Times reports, and said, "Sorry, I can't talk to you". Of Mr. Manafort, he said: "He happens to be a very good person".

In the hyper-partisan atmosphere of USA politics, the prolonged deliberations have caused Trump critics to fear that the jury might acquit Manafort - which they see as a blow to Mueller and the "Russiagate" probe - while Trump supporters have interpreted the media motion as an attempt to pressure the jury into a guilty verdict.

It's worth noting that the "they" Trump references here is his own Justice Department and "what they've done" is charge him with crimes for which he seems pretty guilty.

Manafort faces five counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of failing to disclose his offshore bank accounts, and nine counts of bank fraud.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III made the disclosure while presiding in a hearing where a coalition of news organizations sought the disclosure of jurors' identities and the contents of several secret bench discussions with prosecutors and Manafort's attorneys. Some expert observers have noted that this is not good for the prosecution.

"I don't feel right if I release their names", he said.

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The six-man, six-woman jury met for about seven hours Thursday in a Virginia courthouse, during which they asked the judge four questions, including clarification of the meaning of "reasonable doubt".

Ellis also denied the media's request to make sealed sidebar transcripts public, although he added that much of those transcripts will be made public after the trial.

Jurors also asked the court to define "shelf company", and for more information on foreign bank account records.

Ellis has been tough on the lawyers during the case, telling them to "rein in your facial expressions", urging prosecutors to speed up testimony and clashing with prosecutor Greg Andres during testimony by Manafort's former deputy.

Manafort's trial focuses entirely on alleged fraud and tax evasion, in a scheme prosecutors describe as an attempt to continue living a high-flying lifestyle after revenue from his consulting arrangements with the former head of Ukraine and other politicians dried up.

He said if jurors' names were exposed they would be threatened as well, and for their "peace and safety", he would not release their names.

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