Arguments in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s tax and bank fraud trial wrapped up on Wednesday, after the defense opted not to call any witnesses as part of its case.
“This is a case about lies,” prosecutor Greg Andres told the jury, according to CNN. The prosecution’s argument rested as much as possible on documentary evidence of Manafort’s alleged frauds. He stood accused of hiding overseas income and bank accounts to avoid taxes, and inflating income to get bank loans. “Ladies and gentlemen, the star witness in this case is the documents,” Andres said.
The prosecution attempted to address head on one of the defense team’s biggest challenges to its case: the fact that an actual star witness, Manafort’s former deputy Rick Gates, was an admitted liar who may have had up to five extramarital affairs and embezzled money from Manafort. Gates plead guilty in Feb. to lying to FBI investigators and agreed to cooperate in the Mueller probe, which has involved testifying against his old boss. Manafort’s lawyers throughout the trial tried to pin Manafort’s alleged crimes on Gates.
Andres tried to turn this around, saying that Manafort “didn’t choose a Boy Scout” and that he wanted someone who was willing and capable of committing fraud with him, the Washington Post reported.
Manafort attorney Kevin Downing told the jury that Gates “fell apart and showed himself the liar that he is” during cross-examination, CNN reported. Another Manafort attorney, Richard Westling, seemed to imply that the case was cooked up for nefarious political motives by an out-of-control special counsel’s office.
“They’ve done a good job of selectively pulling information together. But it’s been a selection,” Westling said, according to Politico. “People do not get prosecuted by typical Justice Department prosecutors,” for what Manafort did, the lawyer added.
This would seem to echo the arguments of President Donald Trump, who has harped that the special counsel’s investigation is a “rigged witch hunt.” Earlier this month, Trump tweeted directly about the case, saying that Manafort had been treated unfairly.
The case will now go to the Alexandria, Virginia jury of six men and six women. If Manafort is convicted, the question will quickly turn to whether or not Trump will issue a pardon in an effort to keep his former campaign chairman from cooperating with the government to lessen his potential sentence.