The trial of Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, has gone to the jury for deliberations. In a highly publicized case that has been ongoing for several months now, Manafort’s could be the first major conviction in Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. Manafort is on trial for 18 charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and conspiracy.
Initially, there was a debate over whether or not Mueller could pursue the case against Manafort since his investigation is supposed to center on the Trump campaign and 2016 election interference. Given that Manafort was on President Trump’s campaign, Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled that the Mueller’s mandate was broad enough for him to prosecute Manafort.
The trial took place over 10 days, and the prosecution called 2 dozen witnesses. The prosecution, led by Greg Andres, relied heavily on both the testimony of Rick Gates, Manafort’s former partner, and the paper trail that showed the fraud committed by Manafort. In his closing argument, he asked the jury to disregard the character flaws of Gates. Gates revealed an extramarital affair and admitted to committing fraud of his own throughout the course of the trail. He provided testimony on Manafort’s fraud, in the hopes that admitting to his own wrongdoing and testifying against Manafort would give Gates a chance to avoid imprisonment. Manafort, if convicted, could spend the rest of his life in prison—not to mention he has another trial on September 17th for related charges.
Of the 18 charges brought against Manafort, the prosecution argued that he attempted to illegally hide millions of dollars which he earned working as a political consultant in Ukraine and that he committed fraud to obtain millions more from bank loans and mortgages. He is accused of evading taxes on roughly $16.5 million dollars in income, and fraudulently obtaining $20 million more from the loans. According to prosecutors’ arguments, he obtained this extra $20 million so he could sustain the extravagant lifestyle he had grown used to.
One example of how his fraud relates to the Trump campaign and why the Mueller investigation even looked into him in the first place can be seen in an instance of bank fraud before he lost his position as campaign chairman in August 2016. Manafort had been obtaining loans from the Federal Savings Bank to help pay off his debt and save his failing business. To get those loans approved, he relied on the influence of the chairman of the bank, Stephen M. Calk. After Manafort got his loans, the bank chairman apparently wanted to ask Manafort for a position as secretary of Treasury or as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Dennis Raico, former senior vice president at the Federal Savings Bank, testified to all of this in Manafort’s trial as a witness for the prosecution.
Defense lawyers for Manafort, in a risky move, decided not to call any witnesses for their side of the argument, believing that the prosecution had not built a strong enough case or given the jury enough proof. Manafort himself declined to take the stand when the Judge asked him if he would testify on his own behalf.
The trial came to a conclusion when both sides presented their closing arguments on Wednesday, August 15th. The jury began deliberations on Thursday, continued all day Friday, and then were dismissed by Judge Ellis at 5 pm. The jury delivered a note to Judge Ellis on Thursday with four questions regarding clarification on legal terms the defense used in their closing arguments. They will resume deliberation on Monday.