Judge Ellis' close rein on the prosecution only could serve to aid Manafort in the trial itself, if it were a close case, because it keeps the case narrow and extraneous stuff out. But, it's an old saw that if the defense is winning all its objections it's losing. Moreover, keeping evidence out means that there is likely a zero chance of reversible error in the trial for irrelevant evidence being admitted.
Based on news reports, the government has easily proved its case, and Manafort will be convicted. The question that remains this morning is whether he will put on a defense or just argue to the jury that the government hasn't proved its case. Well, it has. He has to hope for jury nullification that all 12 in the jury room will ignore the obvious and acquit.
It has happened, but will it here in Alexandria, Va., where Zacarias Moussaoui was tried solely for the government's attempt to get him the death penalty in a $100M trial? The defense argument: don't make him a martyr by sentencing him to death. That worked.
What's Manfort's argument against the obvious? There isn't one that I see. For example, the only reason the bank didn't report the $12M loan as a fraud was because the CEO of the bank was in on it.
It appears to me that he's going through this and didn't plead and cut a deal was because (1) he expects a pardon, and (2) to plead would mean being pressured to cooperate. He's not Gordon Liddy, after all.