Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.
The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
7:01 p.m.: Manafort case heading to jury, deliberations to begin Thursday morning
After more than an hour of jury instructions, Judge T.S. Ellis III sent the case to the jury, telling them they would begin deliberations Thursday morning.
In the final instructions to the jury, the judge reminded the panel that their decision must be unanimous and “your sole interest is to seek the truth in the case.”
The judge’s instructions included several key points:
• Ellis told the jury that they were to ignore any Department of Justice “motive or lack thereof” when making its decision.
• Ellis reminded the jury they should not construe comments or questions he made from the bench as opinions to be considered in their deliberations.
Court resumes at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.
The jury heard 10 days of testimony about the allegations against Manafort, one day of closing arguments and instructions on Wednesday, and one day where no evidence was heard after Manafort’s defense team elected not to present evidence from witnesses, or Manafort.
UPDATE: After exchanging brief words with his lawyers and his wife, Manafort left unsmiling for the Alexandria jail where he has been held for several weeks for violating the conditions of his bond on a related case in Washington, D.C., federal court.
But outside the courthouse, lead attorney Kevin Downing said his client was pleased.
“Mr. Manafort was very happy with how things went today,” Downing told a crowd of reporters.
He added that Manafort “was very happy to have his legal team expose the shortcomings of the government’s case and explained how the government has not met the burden of proof.”
Former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington last year. The prosecution of Paul Manafort is the first case to reach trial from the Mueller probe. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
4:55 p.m.: In instructions, judge reminds jury not to consider Manafort’s decision not to testify
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III is currently reading to jurors the instructions on the law they will have to consider as they decide whether Paul Manafort is guilty of the 18 charges he faces.
This is the last step before the case will be given to jurors to begin their deliberations. It is expected to last about an hour and a half, meaning it might take so long that jurors do not substantively begin deliberating until Thursday.
The instructions are technical, but important. Ellis, for example, told jurors if a person was shown to have knowingly testified falsely, they “obviously have a right to distrust” that person. Ellis also told them they should weigh with “greater care” testimony of an alleged accomplice or someone testifying under a plea agreement. That would apply to the prosecutors’ star witness, Rick Gates.
Ellis also told jurors that a defendant has an “absolute right” not to testify, and a defendant’s not testifying “must not be discussed or considered.” That applies to Manafort, who chose not to take the stand in his own defense.
4:36 p.m.: In rebuttal, prosecutor says ‘dozens and dozens’ of documents connect Manafort to fraud
In his last pitch to jurors, prosecutor Greg Andres tried to rebut the notion that Rick Gates was to blame for the crimes with which Paul Manafort is charged.
Andres said there were “dozens and dozens” of documents, many of them emails, that Manafort wrote or was copied on, that connect him to the fraud. He displayed a few examples for jurors, including one in October 2011 in which an accountant asked Manafort if he had any foreign accounts. Manafort said he did not. He showed another in which Manafort referred to a foreign account using the personal pronoun “my.”
Paul Manafort, left, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, walks with his wife Kathleen Manafort, to the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., in March. His trial was the first to emerge from the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Andres told jurors to consider that some evidence showed Manafort directed Gates to commit crimes, and pointed to one email in which Manafort anointed Gates his “quarterback” in handling a loan application.
“Guess who the coach of that team is?” Andres quipped.
Andres even suggested Gates’s stealing from Manafort was evidence helpful to the prosecutors’ case. He said Gates admitted to taking the money, and taking it from Manafort’s unreported, foreign accounts.
As he did during Andres’s first presentation, Manafort stared straight ahead or looked down. He had peered at the jury as they retook their seats for the final argument, but other than that, he has largely avoided their gaze. Manafort looked at his own attorneys when they argued the case on his behalf.
Andres spoke more quickly in his rebuttal argument, his voice notably more dry and hoarse than before.
Andres told jurors not to be distracted by defense attorneys’ suggestions about which witnesses weren’t called, or which documents weren’t shown, asking rhetorically: Did they really need to see more documents, or hear from more people? He also told jurors to dismiss the defense’s arguments about the complicated nature of Manafort’s taxes, asserting that one need not be an “underwriter” to know that inflating a person’s income by millions of dollars on bank forms is inappropriate.
“That’s common sense, and the defense is asking you to ignore your own common sense,” Andres said.
Andres concluded by asserting that the evidence in the case was strong.
“It leads to only one conclusion, and that is that Mr. Manafort is guilty, and guilty as charged,” Andres said.
Judge T.S. Ellis III is now giving the jury instructions before they receive the case to deliberate.
4:17 p.m.: Judge to give jury two instructions on defense’s closing arguments
Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled in favor of the government on all three issues it raised regarding the defense’s closing, saying he would issue two curative instructions and allow prosecutor Greg Andres to note in his closing that Federal Savings Bank wrote off the $16 million it loaned Paul Manafort as a loss.
“If you read the newspapers, they win everything and you lose everything,” Ellis told Andres, a reference to coverage of his often hostile relationship with the special counsel.
“Let’s keep it that way,” defense attorney Kevin Downing quipped, to general laughter.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis during the trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on bank- and tax-fraud charges. (Bill Hennessy/Reuters)
Ellis did later take on a harsh tone with Andres again, telling him curtly that, “I’m responsible for making sure this is a fair trial.” But he appeared to take a jab at the defense’s closing arguments, which Andres described as “cogent.”
“Their arguments were cogent?” Ellis responded quizzically.
“I thought so,” Andres replied.
Defense attorney Richard Westling admitted he “stepped into it” by giving the special counsel leeway to bring up the $16 million loan loss at all. But he said he thought there was an agreement not to raise it in closings. Westling read from the transcript, in which Andres said he would only bring it up in rebuttal if raised in defense argument.
“This is evidence in the record, and I see no basis” not to allow Andres to mention it, Ellis concluded.
The judge also found a way to craft a jury instruction that addresses the defense suggestion that Manafort was selectively prosecuted by the special counsel, without using those words. He will tell the jury to ignore “any reference to the Department of Justice’s motives or lack of motives” in prosecuting Manafort.
Before the rebuttal began, somewhat curiously, Downing asked for a moment to huddle with his client. He, Westling, and fellow defense attorney Thomas Zehnle all rose to stand with Manafort and the four spoke intently for about 30 seconds before retaking their seats. The jury was then called in for the final argument from Andres.
3:21 p.m.: Prosecutors say defense attorneys violated rulings in closing arguments
After the jury was excused for a break, prosecutor Greg Andres stood up to argue that defense attorneys had violated several judge’s rulings in their closing arguments by suggesting Manafort could have been audited, that he was selectively prosecuted, and that Federal Savings Bank got several hundred thousand dollars when it loaned him $16 million.
Judge T.S. Ellis III agreed with Andres on the first two issues, although defense attorneys protested that they had avoided those lines. [Defense attorney Kevin Downing, at the end of his closing argument, said, “Maybe if there was an audit, we could have cleared this up." Also, defense attorney Richard Westling repeatedly intimated that the special counsel was looking for reasons to prosecute Manafort.]
The judge said he would offer extra instructions to the jury, saying that the government is under no obligation to audit someone before prosecution and that they should ignore any argument that Manafort was selectively prosecuted by the special counsel.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, left, listening with his lawyer Kevin Downing to testimony from government witness Rick Gates during Manafort’s trial last week in Alexandria, Va. (Dana Verkouteren/AP)
On the final issue, Westling protested that he never said Federal Savings Bank made money in the end, only that the terms of the loan as agreed on were not particularly favorable to Manafort. Ellis said he would look at the record and decide, meaning the break before rebuttal will probably last longer than planned.
Ellis did not intervene during either closing argument as he did during opening statements and in past trials. The judge suggested Andres perhaps should have objected himself, saying, “You might have raised it at the time.”
After a brief break, Ellis returned and resolved the audit issue. But Andres quibbled with his proposed instruction on selective prosecution. He said his concern was the same one that stopped him from objecting in the moment — “I don’t want to highlight the issue.” He said he didn’t want the judge to use the words “special prosecutor or “selective prosecution.”
On the Federal Savings Bank dispute, Westling said he had a problem — he felt he had skirted the agreed-upon line, and since Andres didn’t object in open court he now had no chance to counter any argument about the loans being written off.
Ellis took another 15 minutes and asked the parties to try to “confer open-mindedly” on solutions on both issues.
3:05 p.m.: Gates ‘lied to you,’ government case fails without him, defense attorney argues
Taking over the closing argument from his colleague, defense attorney Kevin Downing immediately launched into a blistering attack on the prosecution’s star witness: Rick Gates.
Downing said that Gates – who had “signature authority” over some Cyprus bank accounts – stole a “few million” dollars from Paul Manafort, and Manafort was completely unaware because he trusted his deputy and applied little oversight to him.
Rick Gates at the federal courthouse in Washington in November. He was a crucial witness against Paul Manafort in Manafort’s bank- and tax-fraud trial in Alexandria, Va. (Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
“He did not know the Rick Gates that you saw on cross examination,” Downing told jurors, referring to his own questioning of Manafort’s deputy.
Downing recalled how Gates, in his testimony at the trial, had only reluctantly acknowledged he embezzled from Manafort, and claimed he had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses that Downing asserted were actually stolen funds.
“Whenever he didn’t know what to say, he said it was a bonus,” Downing said. He said Gates took Manafort’s money because “he could not afford the lifestyle he was living.” That lifestyle, Downing said, included a secret apartment in London – which jurors have heard previously was used for an extramarital affair – as well as stays in luxury hotels and meals at high-end restaurants.
Downing asserted that Gates was deceptive with jurors even on the witness stand. “To the very end, he lied to you,” Downing said. And he lambasted Gates’s plea agreement with prosecutors, which allows Gates’s defense attorneys to argue for a sentence of probation.
“The government, so desperate to make a case against Mr. Manafort, made a deal with Rick Gates,” Downing said. He added later: “How he was able to get the deal he got, I have no idea.”
Defense attorney Kevin Downing arrives at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., to represent former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Downing posited Gates as a critical witness for prosecutors, claiming he provided the “only testimony” that could speak to discussions Manafort had about deceptions on his tax and foreign bank account forms. He said Gates was “fabricating” those discussions to get his plea deal, and once jurors discredit his testimony, the government will have had a “major failing” in its bid to prove Manafort intentionally lied.
After attacking Gates, Downing sought to stress for jurors how complicated Manafort’s taxes were, and how his actions were too transparent to support the idea that he was trying to hide money from the IRS.
Downing said jurors would have expected to see a “scheme to conceal,” but instead, they could sift through wire transfer records that listed the names and numbers of Manafort’s accounts.
How, Downing asked, could that be a “grand concealment?”
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Downing also highlighted that in 2014, both Gates and Manafort told the FBI about their Cyprus accounts, as the bureau was pursuing a Ukraine-related investigation.
Downing wrapped up his closing argument by again placing the blame on Gates and the others who worked for Manafort.
“Mr. Gates was orchestrating a multimillion dollar embezzlement scheme” and trying to keep it from the accountants, Downing said.
Downing pointed to the testimony of Manafort accountant Cindy Laporta, who had testified that she didn’t trust Gates but didn’t call Manafort to air her concerns.
“If the accountants had picked up the phone, maybe none of us would be here right now,” Downing told the jury before asking them to find Manafort not guilty of all charges.
2:56 p.m.: Defense argues inconsistencies only look like fraud in hindsight
Defense attorney Richard Westling argued that the special counsel scoured thousands of documents and cherry-picked a few inconsistencies that only in hindsight could look like fraud.
He urged the jury to largely ignore all the email evidence, saying that looking back at anyone’s emails can give a wrong impression. “What do those emails mean?” he asked. “Rely on testimony.”
But he also said the testimony of Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates cannot be trusted, and neither can that of Manafort’s former accountant Cindy Laporta.
The building at 29 Howard Street in SoHo, which Paul Manafort listed on a loan application as a second residence but also rented on Airbnb. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
Westling suggested Laporta, who testified that she helped Manafort commit fraud, only came to believe she had committed a crime under pressure.
“It’s only when the government shows up and starts asking, ‘How do you explain this?’ that people start feeling in hindsight something was wrong,” Westling said
Laporta, he said, “seems like someone who worked pretty hard to stay on the right side of things.” But, he said, “We all feel a little guilty when the FBI shows up – it’s just human nature.”
If her accounting firm, Kositzka, Wicks and Company, was committing fraud, he asked, why was there no fuss? Instead, “nobody questioned… nobody resigned.” [Laporta said she was fired after her testimony; another accountant who Laporta said participated in the fraud is also no longer a member of the firm.]
Citizens Bank was given documentation showing there was a mortgage on one of Manafort’s properties, Westling said: “What’s the big mystery?… Where’s the fraud?” [He neglected to mention that the bank was subsequently given documents showing there was no mortgage, although he alluded to Gates, who sent those inaccurate statements.]
On calling a condo in SoHo his second residence, Westling argued that there’s no evidence Manafort’s daughter was not planning to move into the loft until after the loan closed. “If that’s the intent, and something later happens in the future, that does not make the loan a fraud,” the defense attorney said.
He did then acknowledge that Manafort continued to call the condo a rental property on his taxes from the year the loan closed. But he argued such inconsistencies are so common that it can’t seriously constitute a crime.
“If this were the fraud, we would have courts across the country filled with” cases involving Airbnb, he said. “People do not get prosecuted by Justice Department prosecutors for having some issue with whether a property is a rental.”
As for profit-and-loss statements sent to banks that witnesses said overstated Manafort’s income by millions, Westling suggested there could be a good-faith explanation: he thought he would get that money. “It’s not illegal to the extent that you believe the money is coming in,” he said.
A conspiracy count related to a loan from Citizens Bank that Manafort did not get, Westling argued, was simply irrelevant. “Why do you need that additional count?” he asked, suggesting it was another example of the government overcharging Manafort.
Finally, he said Federal Savings Bank got plenty of cash and collateral for the $16 million they loaned Manafort. “They don’t feel like buddy loans,” Westling said. “The bank is looking after their interests.” [The bank has since written off the loans as a loss, although defense attorneys have suggested they could have seized Manafort’s properties to recoup the money.]
2:27 p.m.: Prosecutors haven’t shown Manafort had criminal intent, false information not enough, defense argues
Defense attorney Richard Westling asked the jury to question the motives behind the bank-fraud and conspiracy charges against Manafort. It wasn’t the banks that came to the government to report that they had been defrauded and none of the banks reported concerns with Manafort’s loan applications to regulators, Westling said.
“Nobody came forward to say we’re concerned about what we’re seeing here, not until the special counsel showed up and started asking questions” Westling said.
Former Trump campaign officials Rick Gates (L) and Paul Manafort on December 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates testified that Manafort directed him to deceive banks when seeking loans. (Brendan Smialkowski/AFP)
Westling suggested the special counsel “cobbled together” information to “stack up the counts” against Manafort and overwhelm the jury.
The defense attorney said the government didn’t provide any evidence showing Manafort intended to defraud the banks.
“It is not enough that wrong information or false information was given,” Westling said.
And why did the government rely on calling low-level bank employees instead of calling certain key players to testify, Westling questioned. Where was Steve Calk, the Federal Savings Bank CEO who prosecutors say approved a shaky loan in a quid pro quo for a Trump administration job? Or the other members of the loan committee with Federal Savings Bank who also signed off on lending Manafort $16 million?
“It’s for you to determine what that means,” Westling said.
Westling told the jury that the government didn’t have enough evidence to show that Manafort had intended to defraud banks when seeking loans and that there was no conspiracy because there was no proof of a co-conspirator. Though the government suggested Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates was a co-conspirator, Gates said in his testimony that he didn’t seek to defraud a bank, Westling said.
The government, Westling said, “failed to show an agreement to act collectively to defraud a bank.”
2:02 p.m.: Defense says Manafort had $21.3 million net worth in 2016
After discussing the high burden of proof that prosecutors have to meet, defense attorney Richard Westling reviewed for jurors Paul Manafort’s background as he took aim at prosecutors’ broad narrative of the case.
Westling pointed to Manafort’s “talent as a political consultant” and his decades of work on presidential campaigns, spanning from Gerald Ford to Donald Trump. Manafort, Westling said, “endeavored to serve.”
Defense attorneys, from left, Jay Nanavati, Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling enter the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday. Westling is giving the first closing argument for the defense of Paul Manafort. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Then Westling shifted focus. Manafort’s success, he said, was often based on his capacity to involve others.
“He turned to other people to work together as a team, and had to rely on those people,” Westling said. The defense attorney said that even in his personal finances, Manafort relied on close business associate Rick Gates, his bookkeeper and accountant.
That, Westling said, was “not consistent” with someone trying to commit financial fraud.
Westling said he would address the bank fraud Manafort faces, and he started by attacking the notion advanced by prosecutors that Manafort committed such fraud to maintain his lavish lifestyle. Westling displayed a bank’s credit memorandum, showing that at the end of 2016, Manafort had cash and other financial instruments totaling $8.6 million, and his adjusted net worth was $21.3 million.
“Given this evidence, how can we say he didn’t have money?” Westling asked. He asserted that while prosecutors had shown evidence of Manafort’s effort to obtain loans, they hadn’t shown that he spent the money he got from banks to support his life of luxury.
1:52 p.m.: Manafort attorney says defense put on no evidence because case wasn’t ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’
Defense attorney Richard Westling began his closing argument on behalf of Paul Manafort not with specific evidence but broad concepts — presumption of innocence, burden of proof and reasonable doubt.
“You took a solemn oath” to abide by these legal precepts, he said. “Be steadfast.”
One juror nodded as Westling emphasized the the fact that Manafort stands innocent. “If you’re thinking right now any of this evidence adds up to anything, you shouldn’t be,” Westling said. “Put it out of your mind.”
He went on to explain that the burden of proof is on the government, and that the defense “made a decision not to put on evidence because… we believe the government has not met that burden.”
The burden the prosecutors have to overcome, he explained with a thermometer-like chart, is not that Manafort “possibly,” “probably,” “likely” or “even highly likely guilty,” but that he is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Only after about five minutes did Westling begin speaking in detail of his client, who he said the team of five lawyers is “proud and honored to be able to represent.”
12:22 p.m.: Manafort got $16 million loan with help from banker who wanted Trump administration job, prosecutor argues
Prosecutor Greg Andres finished his closing argument by explaining to jurors how Paul Manafort had defrauded Federal Savings Bank to acquire $16 million in loans, largely thanks to the “guiding hand” of the bank’s chief executive officer, Steve Calk, who wanted a Trump administration post.
As he did with the previous loans, Andres showed jurors a numbered list of the lies he said Manafort told to secure the loans. In essence, Andres argued, Manafort submitted two doctored profit-and-loss statements to inflate his business’s income, lied about having loaned his credit card to Rick Gates so Gates could buy Yankees season tickets and lied about another mortgage.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is shown on the opening day of his trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election (Bill Hennessy/Reuters)
Andres showed jurors emails demonstrating Manafort’s direct involvement in one of the doctored statements – important because it serves to undercut defense attorneys’ argument that Gates is to blame for all the fraud.
Andres asserted that were it not for Federal Savings Bank’s Calk, Manafort might not have gotten the loans. Andres showed jurors an email of various posts in the Trump administration Calk suggested he was open to filling.
Prosecutors wanted to demonstrate Calk’s involvement, Andres argued, to “show why the loan went through, notwithstanding all the red flags.”
At about 11:40 a.m., Judge T.S. Ellis III interrupted Andres, asking if he wanted to reserve any time for a “rebuttal” argument. That is essentially another closing argument that Andres can give to respond to the defense’s closing argument. Andres said he was close to wrapping up and sped through the remaining slides in his presentation.
“The evidence in this case is overwhelming,” Andres concluded. “It’s a case about how when Mr. Manafort didn’t have money, he lied to get more from bank, after bank, after bank.”
Ellis told jurors he would recess the trial until 1:30 p.m. so they could eat lunch. At that time, the defense will present its closing argument – first from Richard Westling, then from Kevin Downing. That should take about two hours or less. Ellis said Andres had saved 17 minutes for rebuttal, but the judge added that he would not be “draconian” about the time limit.
After the closing arguments are concluded, Ellis will read instructions to jurors. The case should be in their hands for deliberations by late Wednesday afternoon.
11:56 a.m.: Prosecutor delves into bank fraud allegations
After his defense of Rick Gates’ testimony, prosecutor Greg Andres moved into the details of Paul Manafort’s alleged bank fraud.
“Time and time again, Mr. Manafort provided false information” to banks, Andres said, adding that “any number of bank documents that Mr. Manafort signed” explicitly say that doing so is a crime.
The fraud was necessary, Andres explained, because Manafort’s Ukrainian patron Viktor Yanukovych “was out of power,” and “Mr. Manafort couldn’t pay his bills.”
Then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort walks the floor at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
Andres started with the $3.4 million loan from Citizens Bank for a SoHo condo, saying Manafort lied by claiming it was his second home.
“Mr. Manafort never used this apartment as a second home, never ever,” he said. “Mr. Manafort knew the apartment was listed on Airbnb.”
He pointed to one email in which Manafort tells his daughter and son-in-law to “remember” that an appraiser “believes you are living” in the condo.
“What he does is nothing short of absurd and shows the lie,” Andres told the jury. “If you’re living in an apartment, do you need to be reminded of that fact? It’s absurd.”
He then walked through a $1.5 million “loan” from Peranova Holdings that came up repeatedly at trial and was an issue the bank raised.
“Not to be confusing, but it was never a loan, it was always income,” Andres said. “Mr. Manafort treated it as a loan so he could avoid paying taxes on that money.” When he needed to show more income from a loan — “poof, a loan becomes income and is forgiven,” Andres said.
Andres said Manafort lied to Citizens Bank in a third way, claiming there was no mortgage on the townhouse Manafort had in Brooklyn.
The mortgage, “it’s like a hot potato — it’s on, it’s off, it’s on, it’s off,” Andres joked.
Andres quickly moved to a $1 million loan Manafort got from Banc of California, saying Manafort similarly failed to disclose his other debts and also lied about his income. In a subsequent effort to get another loan from Citizens Bank, he said Manafort lied about his income again.
Andres tried to undercut the expected argument that Manafort associate Rick Gates was the one orchestrating these loan applications. He pointed to a March 16, 2016 email in which Manafort told Gates, “You are the quarterback.”
Manafort sent some fraudulent documents himself, Andres told the jury, and when he didn’t he was copied on the emails.
“Mr. Manafort is reviewing these documents,” Andres said. “He’s aware of what’s happening.”
11:40 a.m.: Defense attempts to shift blame to Rick Gates are wrong, prosecutor argues
Prosecutor Greg Andres preempted defense attempts to lay blame for the fraudulent financial papers and hidden accounts at the feet of Manafort’s business partner Rick Gates by asking the jury to recall the witnesses and documents presented to them at trial.
Ten witnesses — including an FBI agent, an IRS employee, and Manafort’s bookkeepers — testified before Gates took the stand and all their testimony showed Manafort was not ignorant of his financial activity. Manafort was willful in his actions, Andres said. He knew the law and still chose to violate it.
In July 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his associate Rick Gates, right, worked together on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Gates last week testified against Manafort in Manafort’s tax- and bank-fraud trial. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Andres painted Manafort as a “successful, international political business consultant,” a trained lawyer and a savvy businessman who spoke the language of tax law and finances regularly with his bookkeepers and accountants. Andres showed the jury emails in which Manafort is alerted to tax law requiring him to report foreign money. Andres also presented the jury tax documents in which he was specifically asked to report overseas money. Despite all these instructions and warnings, Andres said, Manafort still obscured $60 million in 31 overseas accounts.
“That evidence alone is more than sufficient to convict Mr. Manafort,” Andres said.
To address any credibility issues the defense might raise with Gates, Andres asked the jury to look at the testimony critically. Prosecutors weren’t asking the jury to trust every word Gates said or even like him. Instead, Andres asked the jury to test Gates’s testimony against the documents presented and other witnesses who testified and verify the wrongdoing the government alleges.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the star witness in this case is the documents,” Andres said.
Andres also asked the jury to question why the defense leaned hard on Gates’s extramarital affairs.
“Was it to distract you?” Andres asked. “Does it matter?”
Any affair Gates had 10 years ago doesn’t make Manafort any less guilty, Andres said.
Manafort was a mentor to Gates, and if anything, Manafort “didn’t choose a Boy Scout” as a business partner but sought someone with whom he could commit fraud and other crimes.
When addressing the money Gates admitted to embezzling, the defense in its opening statement claimed that Gates “had his hand in the cookie jar.” But it wasn’t a cookie jar, Andres told the jury. It was a “huge dumpster” of hidden money.
11:10 a.m.: Manafort had millions in 31 foreign accounts, reported none of them, prosecutor says
Early in his closing argument, prosecutor Greg Andres sought to highlight for jurors a simple fact: Paul Manafort reported on his tax returns that he did not have foreign bank accounts, when in fact he did.
Displaying charts to jurors that demonstrated his point, Andres asserted that not only did Manafort have such accounts, but he kept millions of dollars in them, much of which he funneled to the U.S. to buy luxury clothes, cars and property.
In 2010, Andres told jurors, Manafort had more than $5 million in foreign bank accounts, and used more than $1.5 million to buy things in the United States. In 2011, Andres said Manafort had more than $8 million in foreign accounts, and used more than $1.4 million to buy things in the United States.
In 2012, Andres said, Manafort hit a high mark: He had more than $25 million in foreign bank accounts and used more than $9 million to pay vendors and buy properties at home. In 2013, Andres said, Manafort had more than $18 million in foreign accounts, and used more than $2.8 million to buy things. In 2014, the prosecutor said, Manafort had more than $2.7 million in foreign accounts, and used more than $400,000 to buy things.
Jackets included in the government’s exhibits admitted into evidence, at the trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Witnesses said Manafort spent extravagantly on clothes. (Courtesy Special Counsel’s Office)
That evidence is important, Andres said, because every year from 2010 to 2014, Manafort claimed on his taxes he had no foreign bank accounts. He also failed to file forms that are required for people who have foreign accounts with more than $10,000 in them, Andres said. Both are crimes with which Manafort is charged.
As Andres spoke, jurors looked up at him, occasionally scribbling notes in the black notebooks they have used throughout the trial. Andres spoke slowly and dispassionately – often referring to particular exhibit numbers that he said jurors should consult when they retire to discuss the case. For his part, Manafort, dressed in a blue suit and blue shirt, sat staring forward or looking down, never turning his head toward Andres or the jury.
To emphasize the scope of what he says was Manafort’s tax fraud, Andres posted a chart showing how much income Manafort did not report in each of the years from 2010 to 2014. At the lowest point, in 2014, Manafort had $1.3 million in unreported income. At the highest, in 2012, he had $9.2 million in unreported income. The chart was prepared by one of the prosecutors’ witnesses.
Andres told jurors that Manafort controlled 31 foreign bank accounts, some of which had his name attached. He took aim at the defense notion that Manafort’s business partner Rick Gates was secretly moving money through the accounts – showing jurors emails in which Manafort directed funds to be moved, and referring to the accounts using the possessive pronoun “my.”
Andres then appealed to jurors’ common sense. Was it possible, he asked facetiously, that Gates or some unknown person had forged Manafort’s signature on the accounts, put $60 million in them over time, and then allowed Paul Manafort to use them to buy $15 million in clothes and cars?
“Does that make any sense at all?” Andres asked the jury. “We should all be so lucky.”
A few jurors chuckled in response.
10:46 a.m.: Prosecutor asks jury to take careful notes
The strength of the special counsel’s case against Paul Manafort is the overwhelming documentary evidence — bank records, tax returns, emails, invoices, profit and loss statements. But the volume of evidence has also been a challenge as prosecutors tried to make the case comprehensible to the jury. In closing arguments, prosecutor Greg Andres at times sounded like a college professor, urging jurors to write down numbers and read the exhibits.
“Write down the exhibit numbers so you can review them in the jury room during deliberations,” he said near the outset of his argument, which he promised would be less than two hours long.
Some of the documents, he explained, had not yet been shown in court: “I’m going to do my best to refer to the exhibit numbers,” he said, because “some of the exhibits you’re going to be seeing for the first time.”
He walked through just a few examples of money, traced by an FBI forensic accountant from Ukrainian politicians to Manafort and then to vendors in the United States.
Then Andres tried to boil it down a bit.
“Mr. Manafort’s scheme, when you break it down, was not that complicated,” he said. “But it was hidden, to be sure.”
Manafort did not report any of these financial movements to his bookkeeper or accountant, Andres pointed out.
“Why would he lie?” he asked. “The answer is simple: He wanted to hide that money and evade taxes.”
Jurors appeared to take Andres’s words to heart, diligently taking notes as he spoke.
The courtroom was packed with spectators. As closings began dozens more tried to find seats only to be turned away.
10:40 a.m.: Prosecutor addresses some criticism from judge
Throughout the trial, Judge T.S. Ellis III derided prosecutors for focusing on Paul Manafort’s extravagant spending on suits and home improvements. In closing arguments prosecutor Greg Andres got a chance to explain the government’s case.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III is presiding over the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (Tracy Woodward/The Washington Post)
In essence, he said he agreed with the judge: “This case is not about Mr. Manafort’s wealth. It’s not a crime in this country to be wealthy.”
He said if Manafort had used unreported income to buy “widgets,” they would have shown evidence of the widgets. They showed evidence of “cars, clothes and homes” because that’s what Manafort bought.
“We’re in this courtroom because Mr. Manafort filed false tax returns and failed to file FBARs,” or foreign bank account reports.
Andres also addressed the defense Manafort’s attorneys raised in opening statements, that the failure to acknowledge his 31 overseas accounts on his taxes amounted to overlooking a box on a form.
Andres pulled up one tax return and showed that Manafort explicitly checked “No,” when asked if he controlled foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000.
The defense “suggested he simply forgot to check a box. That’s not true,” Andres said. “Mr. Manafort affirmatively answered ‘No’ … it wasn’t a clerical error.”
10:34 a.m.: Prosecution’s closing argument begins: Manafort’s trail of money “is littered with lies”
Special Counsel’s Office Prosecutor Greg Andres, in a dark blue suit, white shirt and black tie, took a sip of water and began his closing argument at about 10 a.m. Speaking slowly – at times reading and at times looking up at jurors from a lectern that was turned to face them – Andres told the panel that the case boiled down to Paul Manafort’s lies.
“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and he lied to get more money when he didn’t,” Andres said.
He added: “When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort’s money, it is littered with lies.”
This sketch depicts opening statements in the trial of Paul Manafort, seated right row second from right, together with his lawyers, the jury, seated left, and the U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, back center. Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye, standing, gave the government’s opening in Manafort’s trial on tax evasion and bank fraud. (Dana Verkouteren/AP)
In his first shots at the defendant, Andres repeated, “Mr. Manafort is not above the law.”
Andres began his closing argument by breaking up the charges into two parts: the period between 2010 and 2014 when Manafort is accused of not paying taxes and of filing false returns to keep the money he had; and the period between 2015 to 2017 when he wasn’t making money and allegedly began defrauding banks.
Andres said Manafort hid money in overseas bank accounts in Cyprus and other locations, and failed to alert the government to the accounts in Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report filings.
“In total, Mr. Manafort failed to pay taxes on more than $15 million,” Andres said, adding that the money was used to pay various vendors.
When the money stream began drying up for Manafort, he portrayed loans as income to secure more loans, Andres said.
“A loan is not income, and income is not a loan,” Andres said.
Andres told the jury Manafort applied for five loans at three banks, securing about $20 million by filing false statements. Andres said Manafort lied about his profits and losses, about where he lived, about the debt on his American Express card and sent false documents.
“He lied and lied again,” Andres said.
Andres referenced an email Manafort sent to his Cypriot lawyer asking money be wired from one account to pay Steve’s Painting and Construction. The email is evidence of Manafort’s unreported income hidden with foreign banks, Andres said.
The money would be taken from “…my Yiakora Ventures account,” Manafort wrote in the email. Andres emphasized the word “my” to illustrate that Manafort was the one who controlled the financials and could be used to block a defense allegation that Gates or others had control.
9:00 a.m.: Two hours of closing arguments expected from each side in Manafort trial
Though both sides have rested their cases, it will still be hours before the jury will start deliberating in Paul Manafort’s tax- and bank-fraud trial. Prosecutors and Manafort’s attorneys plan to give lengthy closing arguments that are expected to take up much of the day.
Prosecutors have requested two hours for their closings — an opportunity to stitch the barrage of documents and hours of often-technical witness testimony they have presented to jurors over the last two weeks into a cohesive narrative. They’ll also introduce some evidence they hadn’t presented through witnesses but are allowed to discuss during closings.
Manafort’s attorneys are expected to have the same amount of time to address the jury — the first time they’ll substantively address the panel since opening statements.
Prosecutors are typically allowed a final rebuttal argument before the judge gives instructions and finally hands the case over for jury of six men and six women to determine Manafort’s fate.
Paul Manafort, then-senior advisor to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, exits a meeting of Trump’s national finance team at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City in June 2016. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
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