The Manafort Defense Rested Without Presenting A Case

Paul Manafort, on trial for bank fraud and tax charges related to his overseas consulting work, will not testify, and his attorneys rested on Tuesday, setting up closing arguments for the one-time Trump campaign manager.

Washington Post:

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The prosecution rested on Monday, and today the defense rested, and Manafort will not take the stand. The courtroom was sealed for nearly two hours this morning, then reopened at about 11:30 a.m. with Manafort coming in 10 minutes later. The reason for the sealed court was not disclosed.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said that closing arguments in the case will begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, and jurors will be given instructions in the case after that. They will be sent home at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, after they see the defense formally rest its case.

The lawyers will discuss Tuesday afternoon what instructions they intend to give jurors. Those are wonky, but important, as they will shape how jurors debate the charges of which Manafort is accused.

In fact, the only time Manafort himself has spoken was in response to Judge Ellis’ reminder of his rights in the proceedings:


Manafort spoke for the first time in court during the trial, saying he will not testify.

Manafort told Judge T.S. Ellis that he would not testify during a brief questioning at the podium before the jury was brought in the room. Manafort is not required to testify because of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Ellis made this clear during his brief conversation with Manafort.

“You have an absolute right to testify before this jury,” Ellis said. “You have an absolute right to remain silent before this jury.”

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, and Ellis encouraged both sides to keep them under two hours.

Manafort faces 18 charges of tax and banking crimes and has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. The case stands as the first major test for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is currently leading the probe into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — including whether there was any collusion between President Donald Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin.

Arm chair lawyers and social media litigators will go crazy, but this is very common. Shaky defenses rest without presenting all the time, as Popehat outlines here, and if you are not going to call the defendant, might as well hide that fact with a blanket, “we don’t need a defense against these ridiculous charges,” type defense.

Will it work? Who knows, the jury will let us know, perhaps as early as the end of this week. The Trump-centric coverage often misses the point that Manafort has been dirty for years, but proving crime beyond reasonable doubt to a jury is never a sure thing. It only takes one juror, after all. Despite the volume of the debate, we are all in the same boat as to the outcome of this trial: we wait.

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14 thoughts on “The Manafort Defense Rested Without Presenting A Case

  1. Popehat has a twitter thread that begins here that lawsplains stuff, a little, in the way that twitter allows.

    Ok. So. Why would the Manafort defense team not put on a defense, and how unusual is it?It's not unusual at all. It's common. Here are some possible reasons why. /1— SituationRoomHat (@Popehat) August 14, 2018

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    • He’ll likely pardon Manafort, but he’s also notoriously temperamental – so Manafort pissing him off by revealing unflattering information on the stand might jeopardize a pardon by more than it protects against a conviction.

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    • I really don’t understand why people think Trump will pardon anyone for remaining silent. After-the-fact deal honoring is NOT Trump’s MO. My guess is that if he thinks there isn’t anything to gain personally by pardoning Manafort (or any of these cretins) he won’t do it. IOW, the only calculus Trump will invoke down the road is the only one he’s ever invoked: what’s in it for me?*

      *And since he’s broke Manafort can’t even BUY a pardon from Trump.

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      • He wouldn’t be pardoning Manafort because he owes Manafort, he’d do it as a political statement that Mueller exceeded his authority since (broadly speaking) Conspiracy to Launder Money, Failure to register as a foreign Agent, and False Statements relating to actions that pre-date the election aren’t the stuff of Election Collusion.

        There’s also a Conspiracy Against the United States charge, but I haven’t heard much about that and don’t know if its a “technical” charge related to Money Laundering and Ostrich slaying and/or an automatic tag-along with Failure to Register. But my (perhaps mistaken) interpretation would be that if this were *the* conspiracy charge we’ve all been waiting for, then presumably we’d all be on tenterhooks for the definitive axe to fall… that’s not my impression of what’s going on here.

        Now previously we had speculated that we assumed a pardon was not possible because Mueller had him on State/Local charges and once pardoned he couldn’t plead the 5th. So that might be one reason why Trump wouldn’t pardon… but if he pardons… then the down-sides above must not be in play (one would assume… who knows, maybe Giuliani is in charge of the Pardon Process and hasn’t bothered to do any research – which seems to be his current MO).

        So, *if* he’s found guilty, and *if* Trump pardons… like all things Trump it would be about Trump not about payback or anything to do with Manafort.

        Or so my Trump Tarot cards say.

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        • Those are the next Manafort trial. This one is for tax perjury and bank fraud.

          As for this:

          He wouldn’t be pardoning Manafort because he owes Manafort, he’d do it as a political statement that Mueller exceeded his authority since (broadly speaking) Conspiracy to Launder Money, Failure to register as a foreign Agent, and False Statements relating to actions that pre-date the election aren’t the stuff of Election Collusion.

          Like…three separate judges have all ruled this is well within Mueller’s authority. The one for this trial, the one for the trial next month, and I believe another involving someone who got subpoened to the Grand Jury.

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          • Like…three separate judges have all ruled this is well within Mueller’s authority.

            But Trump, and like 90% of Republican voters, and the lions share of the GOPers in Congress think it’s a witchhunt created by Hillary’s Fusion One connections in the Angry Steele Democrat Deep State to make excuses for an election she god that’s exhausting, I’m whipped and I didn’t even get half way through. I don’t know how he finds the energy to write that shite 12 times a day. Stamina!

            Add: Personally I think Trump, and like 60% of Republican voters, and like 85% of GOPers in congress actually think Trump’s guilty as sin.

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  2. Aside from anything else, I can’t imagine the defense wants to give the prosecution a chance to cross examine Manafort. There is no way that would work out well for them.

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  3. What defense could they put up that would get them more than throwing doubt on Gates? This is a pretty heavy paper based crime, and their defense has thus been forced to be “Gates did all that without my knowledge”. If they put Manafort on the stand, the best they could do is have him repeat that — and that’s if the Feds had absolutely no desire to cross examine him anyways.

    Their defense seems really weak to begin with — I don’t think “My assistant kept hiding my accounts and money, and falsifying bank applications for my property, and not reporting my foreign accounts” is a hard sell to begin with. That’s without having Manafort’s own emails, including the fun “Help me forge this document” email, or the testimony of various other people that Manafort was real darn involved in his money.

    Although I think it went to trial for a different reason than most — I don’t think Manafort was pardon shopping, he likely gave up on that months ago. It’s simpler. Everything he’s on trial for? That was a man whose income had dropped drastically, and who didn’t want to give up his lavish lifestyle.

    Any plea deal in the world would require him to pay his back taxes, and likely fines (especially if he’s angling for no or little jail time) and the fines for some of that are…large. Like up to 50% of the value of his accounts large. And that’s not even getting into the fact that Gates rolled first, and the second person to flip rarely gets the sweetheart deals.

    I honestly think Manafort would rather roll the dice and try to keep what remains of his wealth, rather than make a deal and see it vanish. If he’s broke, all his assets seized and his accounts emptied and his properties liquidated, what’s it matter if he’s in jail? His life’s over anyways.

    I’m not surprised the defense called no witnesses, not after his defense became clear. He’s got a real weak hand. No point in making it worse. Maybe he’ll get lucky with the jury.

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  4. I was a prospective juror for a trial where the defense announced during voir dire that they would not be putting on a defense. Their questioning was pretty much “Do you understand that the prosecution has the entire burden” and they excused anyone who clearly did not.

    I don’t know how it came out. I was booted (you will be shocked to learn) for being a smart-ass.

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