Paul Manafort Could Be Considering Plea Deal As Trial Goes Into Unexpected Recess

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Paul Manafort may be considering a plea deal, according to a report from The Hill.

Manafort, former campaign chair for President Donald Trump, is currently on trial for financial crimes and money laundering. This is the first trial connected to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The speculation regarding a plea deal began when Manafort’s trial was held up for several hours on Friday. This is unusual for Judge T.S. Ellis III, who is known for the brisk pace of his trials.

The trial appeared to be held up due to Ellis meeting with the federal prosecutors as well as Manafort’s defense attorneys.

Ellis had started the trial day with a bench conference, during which he talked with the prosecutors and defense attorneys. After the bench conference and before the jury entered the room, Manafort talked quietly with his lawyers, according to Politico.

After Manafort’s discussion with his lawyers, Ellis called the lawyers back, and after a brief discussion Ellis announced that he needed a recess to “consider an issue.”

Ellis then left the room, but instead of heading toward his chambers, he left in the direction of the jury room. He was accompanied by the court stenographer. After 45 minutes, Ellis returned and called in the jury, then sent everyone to an early lunch. He also cautioned the jury to not discuss the case with anyone.

After lunch, attorneys from both sides appeared to go into Ellis’ chambers for another 45 minutes. When Ellis returned after the five-hour delay, he called for the next witness to take the stand with no explanation of the reason for the delay.

At the end of the trial day, Ellis again warned the jury not to discuss the case with others or do online research.

“Don’t look up anything on Google, ” Ellis said, according to Politico. “Put it out of your mind until Monday. I certainly plan to do that.”

According to Fox News, the delay may also have stemmed from a complaint filed by the prosecution, in which they accused the judge of unfairly criticizing them. Prosecutors want Ellis to tell the jury to ignore one of his previous comments. According to The Hill, this is the second time federal prosecutors have asked Ellis to admit to making an error during the trial.

Although the delay ignited speculation regarding a plea deal, Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lawyer, told CBS reporter Paula Reid in July that there is “no chance” Manafort would take a plea deal.