Manafort trial Day 12: ‘He is not above the law,’ prosecution argues in closing statement

Prosecutors laid out the most damning interpretation of the evidence against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Wednesday, framing their closing argument around "Mr. Manafort’s lies."

Greg Andres, a prosecutor with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, repeated the word "lie" more than a dozen times at the outset of his closing argument.

"Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it and he lied to get more money when he didn’t," Andres told the jury.

Prosecutors are expected to present a two-hour case to the jury summarizing the evidence they brought against him and urging them to convict Manafort on 18 criminal counts in their tax- and bank-fraud case, the most high-profile and crucial moment yet for Mueller’s team.

Manafort’s defense will get an opportunity to present their own version of the case later Wednesday — in which they are expected to argue the prosecution failed Continue reading “Manafort trial Day 12: ‘He is not above the law,’ prosecution argues in closing statement”

Manafort trial Day 11: Defense rests without calling witnesses

Paul Manafort’s defense rested Tuesday without calling any witnesses — including Manafort himself — a decision that will send the tax- and bank-fraud trial into its final stages.

Closing statements will begin Wednesday, with jury deliberations to follow.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III rejected a last-minute bid by the defense to toss out the charges against Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team brought the charges as part of its investigation into Russian interference during the presidential election.

The defense’s announcement followed an unexplained two-hour delay Tuesday morning as lawyers and the judge apparently haggled behind the scenes over an unspecified defense motion. It was the third court day in a row where Ellis took the court into a secret session. The judge said Monday afternoon that the closed hearing was needed because of a sealed motion filed Continue reading “Manafort trial Day 11: Defense rests without calling witnesses”

What’s next for Paul Manafort?

A verdict in Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial could come as early as this week, but it will hardly be the last word on his fate.

A conviction would threaten to jail Manafort, 69, for the rest of his life. But he would have the option to appeal — or hope for a politically explosive pardon from President Donald Trump. Even if a jury acquits the former Trump 2016 campaign chairman on the tax and bank fraud charges that special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors have detailed out over the past two weeks, Manafort is hardly out of the woods.

Most notably, the longtime GOP operative still faces a second federal trial slated to begin in mid-September in Washington. And that case, accusing Manafort of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent while lobbying for the government of Ukraine, could be even more challenging.

“Even if, against all odds, Continue reading “What’s next for Paul Manafort?”

Kathleen Manafort takes front-row seat in husband’s fraud trial

Kathleen Manafort has stood by her husband every day in court, listening in silence as her name pops up while prosecutors present allegations of bank fraud and tax evasion against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Her name has been mentioned in the context of family car purchases, home renovations, joint tax filings and foreign bank accounts. Yet, she appears unfazed as she sits daily in the front row of the courtroom. When Paul Manafort enters, he often blows her a kiss.

As a mortgage assistant from Citizens Bank gave testimony Thursday about a $3.4 million mortgage loan that both Kathleen Manafort and her husband received, which prosecutors say was based on false documents designed to defraud the bank, she whispered in a friend’s ear and shook her head. Prosecutors displayed the loan documents, which showed her signature.

Paul Manafort’s trial has thrown his wife into the public eye. Continue reading “Kathleen Manafort takes front-row seat in husband’s fraud trial”

Manafort trial day 8: Mueller team complains about scolding from judge

Prosecutors frustrated by repeated slapdowns from the judge at Paul Manafort’s trial made a formal written protest Thursday, complaining they were unfairly called out in front of the jury.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis sharply dressed down prosecutors on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team Wednesday for allowing an expert witness from the Internal Revenue Service to remain in the courtroom while other witnesses were testifying. Typically, witnesses aren’t supposed to hear anyone else’s testimony in a trial so they don’t influence each other.

In a written motion filed before court convened Thursday, Mueller’s team asked the judge to explain to the jury that the prosecution had done nothing wrong. Indeed, a transcript of the first day of the trial last week shows that prosecutor Uzo Asonye specifically asked that witnesses be excluded "with the exception of our expert and our [FBI] case agent." The judge and Continue reading “Manafort trial day 8: Mueller team complains about scolding from judge”

Manafort Trial Day 7: Gates wraps testimony amid more affair claims

Rick Gates wrapped up his testimony against former boss Paul Manafort Wednesday without a dramatic courtroom showdown, but the defense got in an attention-grabbing parting shot at the government’s star witness: suggesting Gates had as many as four extramarital affairs during the time he was working for Manafort.

On the witness stand Tuesday at Manafort’s tax- and bank-fraud trial in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, Gates acknowledged under defense questioning that he had an extramarital relationship with a woman in London that may have been facilitated in part by several hundred thousands of dollars in funds Gates has admitted stealing while he worked for Manafort’s international political consulting firm.

However, just as Gates was about to conclude his testimony Wednesday morning, defense attorney Kevin Downing hit the former Manafort aide with a question that indicated Gates’ "secret life" involved multiple instances of marital infidelity.

"Do you recall telling the Office Continue reading “Manafort Trial Day 7: Gates wraps testimony amid more affair claims”

Trump’s name emerges at Manafort trial

President Donald Trump says that the criminal trial of his former campaign aide, Paul Manafort, has nothing to do with him.

But jurors in a Virginia courtroom heard his name repeatedly on Tuesday.

Trump’s name, his 2016 campaign and his inauguration came up several times during the trial’s sixth day, the most by far in the bank- and tax-fraud case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. While the case does not directly involve the president, on Tuesday Trump became an unmistakable presence in the background.

Documents and testimony spelled out Manafort’s myriad ties to Trump and his 2016 White House run. They showed that Manafort sought to ease his financial pressures by trading on his influence in Trump’s orbit. His longtime deputy, Rick Gates, said it was “possible” he had stolen money from Trump’s inauguration committee. And Gates described the roles that he and Manafort had played in Trump’s winning Continue reading “Trump’s name emerges at Manafort trial”

Obstruction questions still on table for Mueller-Trump interview, Giuliani says

President Donald Trump’s lawyers plan to send a letter to special counsel Robert Mueller later this week signaling they remain open to allowing the president to sit for an interview and be questioned about possible obstruction of justice, Rudy Giuliani said Tuesday.

“We’ll leave a little wiggle room,” Trump’s personal attorney said in an interview. “It’s not so much obstruction questions. It’s really sucker punches.”

A willingness to let the president address Mueller’s obstruction questions surrounding the firing of FBI Director James Comey marks a reversal for Giuliani from Monday, when the former New York mayor told The Washington Post that Trump’s lawyers had a “real reluctance about allowing any questions” on that topic.

“If he can demonstrate to us he’s got a couple questions on obstruction that he doesn’t have the answer to, that he really needs the answer to and he hasn’t made up his mind that Continue reading “Obstruction questions still on table for Mueller-Trump interview, Giuliani says”

Manafort accountant who admitted role in false tax returns leaves Virginia firm

The former accountant for Paul Manafort who admitted filing false tax returns on his behalf was put on leave from her Northern Virginia firm pending her separation, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

The firm, KWC, said it was “unaware” of the disclosed misconduct until it heard Cynthia Laporta testify on Friday and again Monday during Manafort’s criminal trial about how she knew Manafort had false information in his 2014 and 2015 tax returns.

“The entire KWC leadership team is shocked by Ms. Laporta’s testimony, which clearly represents that she failed to meet the firm’s high standards for professional and ethical conduct in her work for Mr. Manafort,” the company said. “In the firm’s entire 35‐year history, no employee or principal has ever been disciplined by a professional body or government agency.”

Laporta, an accountant and shareholder with KWC, appeared in the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, Continue reading “Manafort accountant who admitted role in false tax returns leaves Virginia firm”

Rick Gates set to take the stand in Manafort trial

Rick Gates, the longtime deputy of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is set to take the stand Monday afternoon in Manafort’s trial on charges of bank and tax fraud related to overseas earnings, a lawyer for Gates told POLITICO.

Gates is considered the star witness for the prosecution against Manafort — and his testimony in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom is the first time he’s known to have faced Manafort since he agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in February.

Gates’ central roles in the campaign and transition of President Donald Trump have made him a pivotal witness in Mueller’s ongoing probe. But he was also at Manafort’s side while the pair conducted a lobbying effort on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine years before they joined Trump.

Manafort’s defense team attempts mission impossible

Paul Manafort might be facing long odds, but President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman isn’t just rolling over in his Virginia trial on tax evasion and bank fraud.

Many Washington attorneys have speculated that the longtime GOP operative is biding his time, pinning his hopes on Trump swooping in with a pardon that lets him off the hook if he’s convicted in Virginia or in a second trial in September on another set of charges from special counsel Robert Mueller.

"Normally, you’d say this is pure kamikaze, but maybe Manafort feels there’s a possible escape hatch," said Peter Zeidenberg, who worked on a previous special counsel probe.

Still, Manafort’s legal team is mounting a case to exonerate him in Virginia — an uphill battle, experienced attorneys say, since jurors have already seen a mountain of emails, bank records and financial statements that prosecutors say implicate the ex-Trump campaign chief. This Continue reading “Manafort’s defense team attempts mission impossible”

Manafort trial day 4: The high-flying consultant’s financial double life

On day four of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s trial, prosecutors advanced their case that the high-flying international political consultant lived a financial double life — hiding overseas bank accounts from his accountants and lying to them about the source of large sums he deposited in U.S. banks.

The testimony further underscored the argument by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team that Manafort relied on a complex web of foreign financial entities and transactions to conceal and evade U.S. taxes on millions of dollars he earned from managing and advising foreign political campaigns, particularly in Ukraine several years ago.

Manafort’s defense team, which is fighting off bank- and tax-fraud charges, has suggested that false statements on his tax returns were understandable oversights by a busy man. But prosecutors are working methodically to demolish that position through testimony showing a years-long pattern of deception on Manafort’s part.

An Continue reading “Manafort trial day 4: The high-flying consultant’s financial double life”

Manafort trial Day 3: Mueller team has ‘every intention’ of calling Gates

Speculation that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team might not call its star witness, Rick Gates, to testify against his former boss and business partner Paul Manafort turns out to have been hot air.

Mueller prosecutor Greg Andres said in court Thursday morning that the government fully intends to call Gates, who cut a plea deal earlier this year and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of Manafort and the broader probe into Russian election meddling and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin on its efforts.

"We put him on the witness list," Andres said of Gates. "We have every intention of calling him as a witness."

Another prosecutor, Uzo Asonye, caused a stir Wednesday when he told U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III that Gates might or might not be called in the tax- and bank-fraud case against Manafort. More than a dozen reporters Continue reading “Manafort trial Day 3: Mueller team has ‘every intention’ of calling Gates”

Manafort Trial Day 2: Judge reins in mention of oligarchs

The term "oligarchs" may well be added to the growing list of banned words list at the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

As the second day of Manafort’s trial got underway Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III indicated he was worried that referring to the businessmen who funded Manafort’s political work in Ukraine as "oligarchs" had the tendency to suggest that the defendant was engaged in shady and unsavory work.

"We’re not going to have a case tried that he associated with despicable people and, therefore, he’s despicable," the judge declared during an exchange before jurors were brought into the courtroom. "That’s not the American way."

"Oligarchy is just despotic power exercised by a privileged few," Ellis observed. "Principals of high schools are oligarchs in that sense. What I want to avoid…is how you use the Continue reading “Manafort Trial Day 2: Judge reins in mention of oligarchs”

Manafort Trial Day 1: A snare drum, a seated jury and opening arguments

Opening arguments were set to begin Tuesday afternoon in the first trial triggered by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe after jurors were selected to decide the fate of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Six men and six women from northern Virginia will serve as primary jurors in the case after Mueller’s prosecutors and Manafort’s defense attorneys whittled through about 65 people summoned to the federal courthouse in Alexandria.

Manafort could be seen in the courtroom exchanging notes and consulting with his lawyers during selection of a jury that will spend roughly the next three weeks hearing evidence and testimony related to bank and tax-fraud charges against the longtime GOP lobbyist and political consultant.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III kept the jury selection process moving – the Eastern District where he presides is well known as the “rocket docket — with frequent nudges to Continue reading “Manafort Trial Day 1: A snare drum, a seated jury and opening arguments”

Jury selection underway in Manafort trial

The usually sleepy plaza outside the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia came alive Tuesday morning with the buzz of satellite trucks, a snaking line of journalists jockeying for seats and a throng of raucous anti-Trump protesters cheering the onset of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s trial on bank- and tax-fraud charges.

Despite the modern trappings, a snare drum played by one demonstrator gave the scene a martial, 18th-century flair. Some protesters were simply taunting Manafort, who sits in custody and was driven in through an entrance in the back of the building. Others seemed to be pleading with the veteran political consultant to turn on President Donald Trump.

"Trump won’t do time for you," one sign said.

"Those laundering skills will be helpful in prison," another declared.

Inside, Manafort — clad not in a jail jumpsuit but a black business suit and blue-and-white patterned tie — looked on glumly Continue reading “Jury selection underway in Manafort trial”

Why Mueller needs a win in the Manafort trial

The criminal trial of Paul Manafort that opens in Virginia Tuesday is just one part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling Russia probe — but its verdict could have an outsized impact on Mueller’s work.

A conviction against Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, who is fighting major bank and tax fraud charges, would offer Mueller a powerful response to presidential taunts that he is waging a “witch hunt.”

But Manafort’s acquittal would deliver Mueller a political body blow, enabling Trump and Republicans to scoff at the federal probe ahead of the November midterm elections.

Never mind that Manafort’s trial — which will not be televised — will barely touch on Trump or the 2016 presidential election. The charges cover a period that includes political work the GOP lobbyist and consultant did in Ukraine years before he joined Trump’s campaign but also extend to more recent loan applications while he Continue reading “Why Mueller needs a win in the Manafort trial”

CNN: Cohen says Trump approved Trump Tower meeting with Russians

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, is prepared to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that then-candidate Trump knew about and approved the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his campaign officials and Russians who were expected to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to a CNN report on Thursday.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and the Trump campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, attended the meeting, billed as an opportunity for a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to share damaging information about the Democratic nominee for president. Trump Jr. has since claimed that only Russian adoption policy was discussed.

According to CNN’s report, Cohen claims that he and several others were present when the president’s son informed Trump of the planned meeting, and that Trump signed off on going ahead with the meeting.

Cohen’s legal team declined to comment, including on whether Cohen has Continue reading “CNN: Cohen says Trump approved Trump Tower meeting with Russians”

Michael Cohen leans on Clintons’ fixer as he goes for a public-image makeover

Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, the man who once boasted he would take a bullet for his boss, is trying to repackage himself as someone who’s on a mission to tell truth to power – and he’s leaning on the Clintons’ former scandal manager to help him do it.

Lanny Davis went on Good Morning America on Wednesday and asserted that Cohen had “turned a corner in his life” since the April raid on his New York office and apartment in which federal investigators seized tapes, documents and other materials related to Cohen’s work for Trump.

The GMA interview came hours after Davis let CNN broadcast a 2016 audio recording of Trump and Cohen discussing the logistics of making payments to the publisher of the National Enquirer to silence a former Playboy model who claims to have had an affair with Trump.

Mike McCurry, who served as President Bill Continue reading “Michael Cohen leans on Clintons’ fixer as he goes for a public-image makeover”

Tape appears to show Trump discussing payments involving ex-Playboy model

Donald Trump appears to have been caught on tape during the presidential campaign discussing the logistics of making payments aimed at keeping quiet allegations from a former Playboy model that she had an affair with Trump, according to an audio tape released by an attorney representing Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer.

The nearly three-minute audio recording was provided to CNN by Lanny Davis, a lawyer who is representing Cohen. The audio is choppy and difficult to hear at times, and several key sections are open to interpretation.

But it appears to show Cohen talking to Trump about plans to buy the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story by setting up a company and transferring money to American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer. McDougal has alleged that she had a 10-month affair with Trump, beginning in 2006 and ending in 2007.

If accurate, the audio confirms that Trump Continue reading “Tape appears to show Trump discussing payments involving ex-Playboy model”