Judge T.S. Ellis began the day by sealing the courtroom from the public for over two hours, in the government’s trial against former Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Both parties argued over a sealed motion that the public will not see, yet the day was quite interesting.
Right after court opened at 11:30 a.m., Ellis denied a request from the defense to dismiss two counts of bank fraud and two counts of tax fraud related to a Federal Savings Bank loan application. The defense argued:
‘(The federal prosecutors’ evidence was) insufficient to sustain conviction. (The prosecution) failed to prove the required element of materiality for these charges.’
One former Federal Savings Bank employee testified earlier that Manafort obtained a $16 million loan. The employee said the reason was that CEO Steve Calk was trying to get a Cabinet-level position in Trump’s administration.
Calk prepared a list of the positions he wanted in order of preference — he even gave a list of ambassadorships in descending order, too.
Manafort’s team argued that that four bank charges should go, because Ellis commented earlier that the bank could not be defrauded should its owner have wanted Manafort to have the loans.
Defense attorney, Richard Westling, said:
‘We believe there’s not been a showing of materiality as to those counts, that the bank — the evidence suggests that the bank did not rely on any representations made by Mr. Manafort in granting those loans, and at this time, it would be appropriate to dismiss those counts.’
The judge disagreed. At that point, the defense attorneys decided they would not call any witnesses nor present any evidence before they rested their case. After three weeks of trial the end was near.
Judge Ellis addressed Manafort’s attorneys:
‘I do have a question for the defendant. Does he wish to testify?’
Manafort’s lead attorney, Kevin Downing replied:
‘He does not.’
Then, the judge spoke directly to Manafort:
‘Do you wish to testify?’
Manafort spoke for the first time during his trial:
After that, Ellis said that he would tell the jury to not even discuss Manafort not testifying when he gave them the rest of their instructions. They were not in the room at the time.
Before trial broke for lunch at 12:30, Judge Ellis said he would give both parties an instruction packet. He instructed them to jointly resolve any objections.
The judge said he was considering recessing after the jury instructions had been resolved because he did not want to see the closing remarks split between two days.
Even though both the defense and the prosecution attorneys requested two hours each to give their summations, the judge asked them to cut them down to 90 minutes.
‘It’s very hard for any juror to pay attention for two straight hours.’
At one point, Judge Ellis said he would only give the 12-member jury panel verbal instructions along with a recording of those instructions. There would be no written instructions, but the judge said that they could replay the recording during deliberations.
After three weeks of Manafort’s criminal trial, the defendant faced 18 criminal counts. There were nine counts of bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy, four counts of failing to report foreign banks, and five counts of tax fraud.
If convicted, the president’s former campaign manager would have as much as 10 years in jail for just the tax fraud charges.
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.