An unusual start to the new term of what can now be truly called the Roberts Court. After Justice Kennedy’s retirement the Chief Justice, who on the bench occupies the center chair, now also becomes the center of gravity of the Court as the most likely swing vote.
Last week saw eight justices on the bench. After a weekend Senate confirmation vote followed by a swearing in at the Court, Justice Kavanaugh took his seat on the bench this Tuesday to hear arguments. After the drama of the past weeks it almost felt “normal’. No protesters in the courtroom, nor even on the plaza when I arrived early Tuesday morning though some did show up later.
In a filled to capacity courtroom – I think all of Special Counsel Mueller’s team were present, though not Mueller – Paul Manafort yesterday entered a plea of guilty to two counts before Judge Amy Berman Jackson.
Manafort also entered into a cooperation agreement with the government promising to respond truthfully to all questions from investigators.
George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser who’s conversation with an Australian diplomat in a London bar in 2016 was partly responsible for launching an FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential elections was yesterday sentenced to 14 days in prison, 200 hours of community service and fined $9,500.
I took a lot of flak on Twitter for using the term crochet “needles” in my caption to the above. Word to the wise, don’t mess with crocheters!
At the end of four days’ deliberations the jury in the Manafort trial in Alexandria returned a partial verdict of guilty on eight of the eighteen counts while remaining hung on the others. I decided ahead of time to just concentrate on Manafort as the verdict was announced and forgo a wider view of the courtroom. There was really no reaction I could see in Manafort or his wife, just the slightest nod on his way out of the courtroom. The one sketch I maybe should have done but didn’t, mainly because of the late hour, was of the two lines of lawyers, government and defense, shaking hands as they passed each other as at the end of a baseball game.
Below are sketches done as we waited for the verdict Monday and Tuesday.
After hearing from two final witnesses and closing arguments the jury in the trial of Paul Manafort began deliberations on Thursday morning. It’s too soon to tell how far along the jurors are though a note on Friday indicating that they wished to work two more hours before recessing and returning Monday morning seems to me to indicate they are still working their way through the counts and evidence . . . but who knows?
Quite a week. Manafort’s former partner in crime, Rick Gates, was called to testify late Monday and remained in the hot seat through Wednesday morning. Then came the real meat of the case in sometimes tedious testimony from, an FBI forensic accountant, an IRS revenue agent, and several banking officers. And on Friday there was an unexplained delay possibly due to a jury issue. We don’t know the reason yet but the judge did go back to the jury area and spent a considerable amount of time in there.
The government is expected to rest on Monday after calling a couple of final witnesses. My sketches from week two are posted below more or less chronologically.
Former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort’s bank and tax fraud trial got off to a quick start this week in Alexandria’s “rocket docket” federal court. Judge T.S. Ellis, who yesterday quipped that he was a “Caesar in my own Rome” kept things moving along. Jury selection, which many expected to take a couple of days, was completed by early afternoon of the first day followed by opening statements and the first witness.
This first week’s sketches are posted below, more or less in chronological order. The trial’s star witness, Rick Gates, is expected to be called to testify early next week and the government has said it will rest by the end of the week. Keeping my fingers crossed that Gates won’t take the stand till Tuesday as I have jury duty – don’t you know – in Baltimore on Monday.
Paul Manafort, accustomed to $10,000. House of Bijan suits, appeared instead for yesterday’s pre-trial hearing wearing an Alexandria jail issued prisoner jumpsuit. Looking disheveled, the collar of his green jumpsuit turned inside out, the usually dapper Manafort did not look comfortable. Perhaps that is why he has declined to be present in court today as prospective jurors are summoned to fill out questionnaires.
Judge Ellis granted the defense’s request to delay the start of the trial so that they could have more time to review evidence, but only for a week. The trial is now scheduled to begin next Tuesday, July 31.
Part “Red Sparrow”, part “The Americans”, the picture painted by the government during yesterday’s detention hearing for alleged Russian agent Maria Butina had elements of a spy thriller. Charged with failing to register as a foreign government agent, Butina, according to the government had ties to Russian intelligence.
A Russian gun rights activist, she came to Washington on a student visa, attended American University, and developed ties to the NRA as well as a personal relationship with a Republican consultant. It was also said that she traded sex “in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”