Politics

Manafort Prosecution Comes Down to Three Key Points

Prosecutors present closing argument in former Trump campaign manager’s tax evasion trial

Kevin Downing, left, attorney for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and members of the defense team arrive at the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse on Wednesday as both sides were expected to present their closing arguments. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s prosecution team delivered its closing argument in the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Wednesday.

Manafort faces a maximum 305-year prison sentence if the Eastern Virginia jury finds him guilty on all 18 charges.

After 10 days of presenting evidence and calling witnesses to deliver testimony, U.S. Attorney Greg Andres made prosecutors’ final case to the jury before it deliberates Manafort’s fate.

Here are the three key points of Andres’ closing argument:

1. The evidence demonstrates a pattern of “lying” that stretches back years

“This is a case about Mr. Manafort and his lies,” Andres said, from the outset of his closing argument.

Those lies are documented extensively “in emails, memos, and financial records” entered into evidence over the first 10 days of the trial, Andres said.

Andres stressed to the jury that Manafort’s alleged crimes weren’t a one-off conspiracy to hide $30 million of his income in 31 offshore accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the United Kingdom — they were a pattern of deceitful behavior.

“He filed false tax returns in not one year, but five,” Andres said. “He failed to file [foreign bank account reports, or FBAR] in not one year, but four.”

And, Andres continued, “he lied to each bank about his income” when he sought five loans from three different banks when the funds from his overseas political work dried up at the end of 2014.

2. You don’t have to like Rick Gates — but his testimony passes the “test”

Andres urged jurors that even without Rick Gates’ testimony, the evidence in the case against Manafort is airtight.

“The star witness in this case is the documents,” Andres said.

Andres told the jury they didn’t have to believe every word Gates said in his testimony at face value. Rather, he advised them to “test it” against the statements of the others who testified against Manafort: his accountants at KWC Cindy Laporta and Philip Ayliff; his bookkeeper Heather Washkuhn; and bankers Manafort allegedly defrauded.

Manafort’s defense tried to undercut Gates’ testimonial credibility by highlighting his moral abandon: his alleged affair with a woman in London roughly 10 years ago, his own income tax fraud, and the hundreds of thousands — possibly millions — of dollars he embezzled from Manafort.

But Andres said the money Gates embezzled from Manafort was money that Manafort himself kept hidden from the IRS for years in his foreign bank accounts.

During the defense’s opening statement two weeks ago, Manafort’s attorney Thomas Zehnle said Gates “had his hand in the cookie jar” of Manafort’s money and took what wasn’t his.

Andres turned that line against Manafort on Wednesday.

“That wasn't a cookie jar. It was a huge dumpster of hidden money,” he said.

3. On each of the four types of charges, the evidence is “overwhelming”

You wouldn’t expect a prosecutor to say otherwise, but Andres was correct during his closing argument when he said that the evidence presented by the prosecution over the last two weeks is extensive.

The word he used was “overwhelming,” but the jury is, literally, still out on that.

Judge T.S. Ellis III has said as much.

“I’ve never had two hours in closing arguments,” Ellis, who has been a federal court judge for 31 years, said Tuesday. But he grudgingly agreed that that allotment of time might be necessary due to the sheer volume of evidence.

Andres laid out for the jury the four types of charges they will consider against Manafort: tax fraud, failure to file FBARs, bank fraud conspiracy, and bank fraud.

For each, prosecutors had to prove through evidence and testimony that Manafort not only committed the alleged crimes but that he knew he was committing them.

What's next?

Court will reconvene at 1:30 p.m., and the defense will deliver its final argument. After declining to present a case Tuesday, lead defense attorney Kevin Downing expects his closing argument to last roughly an hour and a half.

The prosecution will have about 30 minutes to rebut the defense.

Then, Ellis will issue final instructions to the jurors, and they will head to the jury room to deliberate.

Watch: What I Saw That You Couldn’t See at the Manafort Trial, Week 2

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