A subplot of Special Counsel Robert’s Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort has been a series of sharp exchanges between the judge and Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing.
The sometimes testy interactions between Downing, a DC-based criminal lawyer, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson have made it into our reports on the case, but they haven’t been a focal point, in part because the case is still young and there’s a relatively small sample size of interactions.
But on numerous occasions, Jackson has scolded Downing for a lack of clarity in the court motions he’s filed, brought him up short for his interactions with the press, and implicitly questioned his lawyering decisions.
Here are just a few examples:
“This is a criminal trial and not a public-relations campaign.”
Downing started off on a bad foot with Jackson by hosting a press conference in front of the courthouse after Manafort’s arraignment in which he called Mueller’s case against Manafort “ridiculous” and based on “a very novel theory.”
The move earned an implicit rebuke from Jackson the next time Downing appeared in Jackson’s courtroom, where she slapped a gag order on the case.
“This is a criminal trial and not a public relations campaign,” she said.
She said the lawyers should “do their talking in the courtroom and the pleadings, and not on the courthouse steps.”
“Your position has changed two times since you stood up.”
At that same hearing, Jackson expressed confusion over what Downing was asking for as part of a bail package to release Manafort from home confinement.
Downing had previously filed a response to concerns that Mueller had raised about Manafort being a flight risk, but the filing did not explicitly lay out what sort of bond package he was seeking.
“I’m still just not exactly sure what you are asking for,” Jackson said. “Your position has changed two times since you stood up.”
She asked him to file a formal motion seeking to alter the conditions of Manafort’s release by midnight that night — a deadline Downing would end up blowing.
In a motion filed a day late asking for the deadline to be extended, Downing explained that he thought he would be able to meet Thursday night deadline by just reformatting a court document he had previously filed, but he “abandoned” that plan after “carefully considering the Court’s comments.”
“It didn’t come with the necessary information.”
As the bail negotiations dragged on, Jackson grew frustrated with the lack of detail given by Manafort’s attorneys about the worth of his real estate.
“It didn’t come with the necessary information,” the judge said about a bond proposal Downing offered in November.
Questions about Manafort’s assets would dog Downing for weeks. At one point he had to defend using Zilllow to estimate the worth of Manafort’s properties rather than a formal appraisal or tax documents.
“Zillow is actually considered to be pretty accurate,” Downing told the judge, prompting laughter in the court room.
“If I did that, you have to point the error out to me.”
At the hearing on Tuesday, Jackson wondered why Manafort hadn’t submitted the paperwork that would secure his release from home confinement. Downing argued that Jackson’s Dec. 15 order greenlighting his bond package had added $7 million to his required bail.
Jackson was incredulous, and noted that Downing has had a month to raise that issue.
“If I did that, you have to point the error out to me,” she said.
“I’m not entirely sure how you can say what you just said.”
Also on Tuesday, the judge discussed a civil suit Manafort has filed against Mueller. Downing questioned the characterization that the lawsuit was seeking to have Mueller’s indictment against Manafort thrown out.
In response, Jackson pointed to the specific count in the civil complaint asking the court to set aside Mueller’s actions against Manafort.
“I’m not entirely sure how you can say what you just said,” she told Downing.
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