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Jury to Decide Paul Manafort’s Fate on Fraud Charges

This courtroom sketch depicts defense lawyer Kevin Downing asking questions of Rick Gates, as former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, bottom right, listens during Manafort's trial on bank fraud and tax evasion at federal court in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018.
Dana Verkouteren via AP

The jury in the first of one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s criminal trials is deliberating Wednesday after prosecutors attached to Special Counsel Robert Muelller’s office and Manafort’s defense team delivered closing arguments.

The arguments capped a 12 day trial before Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Manafort’s fate now lies with the 12 members of the Alexandria, Virginia, jury who will determine his guilt on bank fraud and money laundering charges — all stemming from his alleged activities on behalf of Eastern European politicians in the years before he joined the Trump campaign. Manafort, 69, faces potentially hundreds of years in prison, but prosecutors are seeking eight to ten years.

“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and to get more money when he didn’t,” prosecutor Greg Andres told the jury in his closing, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The trial focused largely on the opulent lifestyle Manafort lived on earnings he allegedly hid and did not pay tax on.

A key witness against Manafort was co-defendant Rick Gates, once Manafort’s partner in the consulting business they ran. Gates turned on Manafort for a reduced sentence on his own similar charges. Manafort’s defense lawyer, Kevin Downing, focused on this deal in his own closing arguments, suggesting this cast doubt on the government’s account and repeatedly calling Gates a liar.

Another member of the Manafort defense team, Richard Westling, focused on the cases’s relation to Mueller’s supposed reason for appointment as special counsel — the investigation of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia. According to Fox News, Westling, “told jurors that banks had not reported any problems with Manafort to regulators ‘until the special counsel came and asked questions,’ and accused prosecutors of ‘stacking’ charges against Manafort.”

Judge Ellis himself had, at times during the leadup to trial, been critical of Mueller’s prosecutors’ motives in their tactics of prosecuting Manafort, suggesting they admit it was part of a wider move to bring pressure on President Donald Trump.

Downing and the rest of Manafort’s defense team called no witnesses of their own.

Shortly after 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Judge Ellis began to give the jury instructions, a process that took roughly one hour. The jury then retired to begin deliberations. A verdict could come as soon as late Wednesday evening, but is not expected before Thursday.

Manafort is also facing charges in the neighboring U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, including failing to register as a foreign agent, raising the very real possibility he will die in prison if convicted. He has been in custody since June when the Judge in this second trial, Amy Berman Jackson, found it likely that Mueller’s team’s accusations that Manafort tried to tamper with witnesses were accurate.

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