After 12 days of gripping testimony about offshore bank accounts and lavish spending, the jury began deliberations on Thursday in the trial of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump‘s former campaign chief, who is accused of tax and bank fraud.
Judge T.S. Ellis delivered a final summary to the six-man, six-woman jury before they retired to consider the 18 charges facing the once high-flying Republican political consultant.
Manafort, 69, is accused of providing false statements to secure bank loans and failing to pay taxes on tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine between 2005 and 2014.
The case stems from Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort is not charged with any crimes related to his brief time as Trump’s campaign chief, but the trial is seen as an important test for the Mueller probe, which the president has repeatedly denounced as a political “witch hunt.”
Prosecutors over the past 12 days outlined the various schemes allegedly used by Manafort to avoid paying taxes and hide bank accounts in Cyprus.
Defense attorneys sought for their part to cast doubt on the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness, Manafort’s former trusted deputy, Rick Gates, who took a deal from the government and turned against his former boss.
“This case is littered with lies,” assistant U.S. attorney Greg Andres told the jury in closing arguments on Wednesday. “Mr. Manafort lied and lied again.”
Andres said Manafort, who could face decades in prison, filed false tax returns between 2010 and 2016 to hide his earnings in Ukraine from U.S. tax authorities.
The money was deposited in 31 foreign bank accounts and Manafort repeatedly failed to report their existence to his bookkeeper, his accountants, and the Internal Revenue Service, the prosecutor said.
Manafort also filed false statements to obtain millions of dollars in loans from banks when he was facing financial difficulties, he said.
Gates, during three days of riveting testimony, outlined for the jury how he helped his boss hide his earnings offshore.
Defense attorneys sought to paint Gates as a liar, a thief, and an adulterer, pointing out that he had pleaded guilty to his own crimes in the hopes of receiving a lesser prison sentence.
During his testimony, Gates, 46, acknowledged stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and having an extramarital affair a decade ago.
Arguing for acquittal, Richard Westling, a defense lawyer, said the government had failed to prove Manafort’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors provided evidence during the trial of Manafort’s years of lavish spending — millions of dollars on luxury houses, cars, antique rugs, and clothes, including an $18,500 python jacket.
But Andres said the case was “not about his wealth.”
“Mr. Manafort knew the law and he violated it anyway,” he said.
While Gates and several others indicted by Mueller pleaded guilty, Manafort insisted on going to trial.
Manafort, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Republicans Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, was Trump’s campaign chairman from May to August 2016.
He was forced to step down amid questions about his work for Ukraine’s former pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych and legal experts say he may be holding out hopes of a pardon from Trump.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders says she's "not aware" of any recent talks between President Trump and Paul Manafort as closing arguments for Manafort's fraud trial kick off https://t.co/jYWc5b6oaY pic.twitter.com/XORftv8SnC
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 15, 2018