Unexplained delay puts Manafort trial behind schedule heading into third week

Unexplained delay puts Manafort trial behind schedule heading into third week
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — An unexplained delay Friday in the criminal trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortWhite House braces for Mueller report Hillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring Manafort to be sentenced for bank, tax fraud in Virginia on March 8 MORE put court proceedings behind schedule as the case extends into its third week.

Prosecutors were planning to call their final witness on Friday, but lengthy discussions between Judge T.S. Ellis III and attorneys from both sides during the morning hours pushed back witness testimony for the day into the afternoon. Neither the jury nor courtroom attendees were privy to the nature of the talks, and Ellis gave no explanation once the trial resumed, prompting speculation ranging from a possible plea deal to restricting testimony from a government witness.

The trial is now slated to resume on Monday at 1 p.m., and the judge appears ready to resume the brisk pace that defined the trial before Friday’s setback.

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Ellis told the jury that while he cannot predict exactly how much longer it will take for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s legal team to finish presenting its case, government attorneys have at least one more witness they expect to take the stand for about an hour on Monday.

The defense will then have the opportunity to present its case. Defense attorneys have not indicated whether Manafort will take the stand.

After the defense rests, both sides will present their closing arguments. Ellis said that portion of the trial will be limited to two hours.

He also encouraged attorneys to shorten their closing arguments, saying two hours is a long time to keep a juror’s attention.

“It is no accident TV programs are only half an hour,” he quipped, evoking laughter from the courtroom.

Ellis limited opening statements to 30 minutes for each side when the trial commenced.

The trial is seen as the first courtroom test for Mueller’s Russia probe. Manafort is facing 18 counts of alleged bank and tax fraud from before his time with the Trump campaign.