Manafort judge says he fears for jurors' safety

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort goes through security as he arrives at federal court in Washington

JACQUELYN MARTIN AP Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort goes through security as he arrives at federal court in Washington

In a break with convention, President Donald Trump weighed in on a criminal trial as the jury considered a verdict on Friday, calling the tax and bank fraud case against Paul Manafort "very sad" and lauding his former campaign chairman as a "very good person".

Ellis made the announcement during an audience at a federal court while the jury was deliberating for a second day on Manafort's 18 charges of tax and banking fraud.

One bench conference would remain sealed, Ellis said, "because I don't want to interfere with any ongoing investigation".

"I have no reason to believe that if those names are unsealed there won't be threats against them".

Left-wing cable news and a series of op-eds, including one in the Washington Post, have slammed Judge Ellis for alleged bias against Mueller's prosecutors over the course of the trial. Kevin Downing, Manafort's attorneny, told reporters he sees the continued deliberations as "a great sign for the defense".

A Manafort conviction would allow Democrats and Mueller's supporters to say ending the investigation would be premature.

Even if President Trump were to pardon Paul Manafort, that doesn't necessarily mean that Manafort or the President would be in the clear. "He happens to be a very good person and it happens to be very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort", Trump said. Trump said that the "whole Manafort trial is very sad", words that political analyst David Atkins said could constitute an attempt to tamper with Manafort's jury and lead to an acquittal.

A courtroom sketch depicts Paul Manafort fourth from right standing with his lawyers in front of US district Judge
Jury in trial of ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort submits four questions to judge

Prosecutors said Manafort had collected $65 million in foreign bank accounts from 2010 to 2014 and spent more than $15 million on luxury purchases in the same period, including high-end clothing, real estate, landscaping and other big-ticket items. The charges against Manafort are not related to Trump, Russia, or the campaign.

The jury will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.

Earlier Friday, Ellis denied a request from multiple media organizations to reveal the jurors' names and addresses, saying he himself had been threatened during the proceedings of the trial.

In closing arguments this week, prosecutor Greg Andres told the jury, "The government asks you to return the only verdict that is consistent with the evidence, which is guilty on all charges".

It's the first courtroom test of the ongoing Russian Federation probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Westling attacked the government's contention that Manafort hid millions of dollars in offshore accounts to avoid US taxes so he could fund the luxurious purchases.

Another question asked for a definition of "shelf company;" the typical term is "shell company", according to the New York Times.

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