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Meet Thomas Selby Ellis III, the judge presiding over Manafort’s trial

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FILE PHOTO: Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for a bond hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Paul
Manafort’s high-stakes trial starts July 31,
2018.

Thomson
Reuters


  • President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman
    Paul Manafort’s trial begins
    Tuesday into charges that include tax fraud, conspiracy, and
    failure to register as a foreign agent.
  • Federal judge Thomas Selby Ellis III is presiding over
    the high-profile trial.
  • Ellis has challenged special counsel Robert Mueller’s
    intentions before, earning the praise of President Donald
    Trump.

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s trial begins today
for more than 20 charges in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia
investigation
, including tax and bank fraud, conspiracy,
obstruction of justice, and failure to register as a foreign
agent.

Presiding over the case is a senior judge in the US District
Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Thomas Selby Ellis III, a.k.a.
T.S. Ellis III. And he’s already made headlines in the Russia
investigation.

In May, Ellis challenged the scope of
the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, expressing concerns about the
team’s charges against Manafort that could be part of a larger plan to bring
down Trump.

“We don’t want anyone in this country with unfettered power,”
Ellis said in court to federal investigators in May. “It’s
unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special prosecutor has
power to do anything he or she wants. The American people feel
pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power.”

A federal judge later allowed the case to go
forward.

Trump praised Ellis during a
rally speech railing against the Russia investigation in May.

“Judge T.S. Ellis, who is really something very special, I hear,
from many standpoints,” Trump said. “He is a respected person.”

Ellis previously ruled Manafort must be held in solitary confinement
while awaiting trial and granted immunity to five
witnesses.

His role in the Russia investigation is just the latest event in
a long career of high-profile cases.

Ellis’ past and other controversial cases he presided over


paul manafort trial judge ts ellis iii courtroom virginia
Cameras
are set up outside the US District Courthouse ahead of the
opening day of Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, Virginia on July
31, 2018.


REUTERS/Aaron
P. Bernstein



Ellis was born in 1940 in
Bogota, Colombia, and immigrated to the US.

After a five-year stint in the US Navy, he completed degrees at
Princeton University and Harvard Law. He also got a Diploma in
Law from the University of Oxford in 1970, then joined a private
practice in Richmond, Virginia. Ellis also briefly taught law at
the College of William and Mary in the 1980s.

Former President Ronald Reagan nominated Ellis to the bench on
July 1, 1987, and the Senate confirmed him on August 5, 1987.

The Washington Post wrote of
Ellis in May that he “is known for his sense of humor, his long
digressions and his demanding and somewhat confrontational
attitude toward the lawyers who appear before him.”

Ellis’ background as an immigrant shaped his special interest in
regularly presiding over several years of naturalization
ceremonies and was the first to hold such a ceremony
at Arlington National Cemetery in 2008.

According to an account from the Washington Post, Ellis
teared up as he personally greeted each participant at the
emotional outdoor ceremony, telling an Iraqi immigrant he was
“honored that you chose to be an American.”

Through his long career, Ellis has presided over controversial
cases, and has often favored US institutions in questions over
violent tangles abroad.

In 2009, Ellis dismissed a lawsuit against the
Blackwater security firm that
accused them of allowing the killings of more than 20 Iraqi
civilians. In 2006, he dismissed a case from a German citizen who
said the CIA kidnapped and beat him. Ellis was also the
sentencing judge in the case of American Taliban member John Walker Lindh.

“In times of war, our country, chiefly through the executive
branch, must often take exceptional steps to thwart the enemy,”
Ellis wrote in his 2006 decision.

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