Published: Wed, August 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Paul Manafort declines to testify as defense rests

Paul Manafort declines to testify as defense rests

Defence attorneys for Paul Manafort rested their case on Tuesday without calling any witnesses or having the former Trump campaign chairman testify in the trial where he is accused of bank and tax fraud. Manafort himself chose not to testify.

The decision by Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, not to call witnesses clears the way for the jury to hear closing arguments in the trial, now in its third week. The prosecution depicted Manafort as using the millions of dollars hidden in offshore accounts to fund a luxurious lifestyle.

Manafort's legal team also lost their attempt to have the charges thrown out without going to a jury.

The trial now heads to closing arguments, set to begin Wednesday morning.

The judge has not given any explanation for the sealed proceeding, only noting that a transcript of it would become public after Manafort's case concludes.

Besides the trial underway in the U.S. district court in Alexandria, Virginia, Manafort faces multiple charges of conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice filed separately by Mueller's team in a court in Washington.

Manafort served as Donald Trump's campaign manager for several months in 2016, during the time the Republican accepted his party's nomination to run for president.

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"Mr. Manafort just rested his case", Downing said outside the courthouse during Tuesday's afternoon recess.

Manafort is charged with bank fraud, conspiracy, preparing false tax returns and failing to disclose foreign income. Then, after his money in Ukraine dried up, he defrauded banks by lying about his income on loan applications and concealing other financial information, such as mortgages, it's alleged.

Team Manafort had argued that the government did not present "substantial evidence that Mr. Manafort is guilty of these charges", in particular pointing to evidence that was not "material" to Federal Savings bank executive Stephen Calk giving Manafort a loan.

Brennan said the loan was approved because of Calk. Manafort made the comments during a brief questioning Tuesday.

Manafort's lawyers declined to call any witnesses one day after prosecutors rested.

It's the first trial to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, although the case didn't address allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Manafort managed delegates to the national convention, rose to campaign chairman in two months, then was forced out in late August amid allegations that he had failed to report his work for oligarchs in Ukraine who were allied with Russian Federation.

Calk, who served as an economic adviser to Trump during his presidential campaign, wrote to Manafort after the election with a list of eight administration roles and 19 ambassadorships he would be interested in holding in the new administration.

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