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Prosecution calls Paula Liss to stand — not Gates

After redirect from prosecutor Uzo Asonye and a brief recross from Downing, Laporta was allowed to step down.

Though Downing told the court that we’d be hearing from Rick Gates after Laporta, the prosecution called up Paula Liss, a certified fraud examiner and money laundering specialist. Liss is a senior special agent with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FINCEN, at Treasury.

Liss’s testimony was very brief, focusing on FBAR, or Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.

 

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Jury asks 4 questions, including query about reasonable doubt

The note, delivered to Judge Ellis minutes ago, contains four questions from the jury. The judge heard argument from both sides as to the answers. 

Court is now dismissed for the day, and the jury will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Here are the questions from the jury, and the answers the judge gave. 

Question: Is one required to file an FBAR if they own less than 50% of the company and no signatory authority?

Answer: After suggestion from the prosecution, Judge Ellis reread Jury Instruction #53, which defined FBARs, and the details surrounding FBARS.

ELLIS: A person is an owner of record (Owner of FBAR) if a person is acting on behalf of a US person with access and control of the account, OR if a US person who owned more than 50% of company.

Q: Define "shelf company"?

A: Rely on collective recollection.

Q: Can you redefine reasonable doubt?

A: The government is not required to prove beyond "all possible doubt," just doubt that can be reasoned.

Q: Can the exhibit list be amended to include the indictment?

A: No.

Jury deliberations begin

The jury of six men and six women will soon begin to decide the fate of Paul Manafort. Judge T.S. Ellis brought in the jury to call roll and laid out the ground rules for deliberation.

"You may deliberate as little or as much as you like," Judge Ellis said.

The jury requested to deliberate in their break room because the actual jury room is too small. Ellis talked about how he was involved in the layout of the courthouse when it was being built. "I didn't pay attention to the size of the jury rooms," Ellis said. "I certainly paid attention to the size of my quarters."

Ellis granted the request.

Ellis called for a five minute recess after dismissing the jury to deliberate. Ellis said that he has other matters during the day and asked if those parties were in the courtroom.

"Mr. Trump, are you here?" he asked the courtroom. The response in the crowd was a mix of laughter and shock. Manafort himself turned around to look at the crowd with a smile.

Jim Trump, an local attorney, stood up and said that his case was next on the docket.

Jury deliberations to begin Thursday

Judge Ellis spent about almost two hours instructing the jurors on the ins and outs of the case. In particular, he reminded them that the defendant is not obligated to prove anything.

Judge Ellis told the jury to acquit Manafort "if the evidence leaves you with a reasonable doubt". He also instructed the jury to ignore any impression they might have inferred about the Department of Justice's motives or lack of motives. Jurors are not allowed to use electronic devices, Ellis said. Ellis declined to read aloud the whole list of banned devices. "Good heavens, this list is outdated. No Blackberrys," Ellis joked.

Ellis also encouraged the jurors not to talk to the media after the trial is over. "I might suggest that you have a duty of confidentiality," Ellis said, though he stressed that it is not an enforceable order. "I hope you take it seriously."

Four juror alternates were also dismissed.

Twelve main jurors will return to court at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow to start deliberations.

Defense wraps closing arguments by taking aim at Gates

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing wasted no time trashing Rick Gates, laying responsibility for FBAR filings, false information provided to accountants, and Manafort's foreign accounts at his feet.

“He is the one who had the signing authority,” he said. Downing said Manafort trusted Gates so much that he gave him the keys to his financials. “What a mistake that was.”

Downing told the jury the Rick Gates they saw was the one the government wanted them to see: a “clean shaven, decent person.”

But he “fell apart,” Downing said, and “showed himself to be the liar that he is,” and pointed to Gates’s hesitance to use the word “embezzle” during cross examination.

Closing out his argument, Downing said, “The government hasn’t met its burden beyond a reasonable doubt that Paul Manafort knowingly and wittingly” committed these offenses.

He thanked the jury for their consideration, and asked “that Mr. Manafort be found not guilty of all charges.”

Manafort defense: 'It is not enough to think someone is probably guilty or likely guilty'

Manafort attorney Richard Westling has kicked off his closing argument, which he will split with Kevin Downing.

Westling start by re-introducing himself to the jury, saying he and his team “are proud and honored to be able to represent Paul Manafort throughout this trial.”

He thanked the jury for their time, attention and service.

He emphasized that Manafort has the presumption of innocence, while the government maintains the burden of proof to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he is guilty. He added that the defense has non burden of proof, and they made the decision not to put up any evidence. “Your job is to ensure the burden is met,” he said.

“Mr. Manafort is innocent,” and will be until the jury rules otherwise, Westling said.

Westling also displayed a chart showing the scale from proven not guilty up through guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“It is not enough to think someone is probably guilty or likely guilty,” he said. He asked the jury to keep this rating scale in mind, and to “hold the government to its burden, ladies and gentlemen.”

Westling then moved on to Manafort’s reputation as a talented political consultant who “endeavored to serve,” working for the campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bob Dole and Donald Trump.

He spoke of setting up successful consultancies, adding “he turned to other people to work as a team.” And he said Manafort’s involving bookkeepers, accountants and Gates into his finances was “not consistent with someone attempting to commit a fraud.”

Hinting at Gates, Westling said Manafort relied on people in his consultancies — “Sometimes they are trustworthy, sometimes they are not.”

Dartunorro Clark

Prosecutors' closing argument paints Manafort as a liar who willfully broke the law

Paul Manafort lied to hide the full extent of his wealth from U.S. tax authorities and lied some more to obtain loans that would continue to fund his luxurious lifestyle, prosecutors said Wednesday during the closing arguments of the federal fraud trial of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

"Mr. Manafort lied when he had money and lied to get more money when he didn't," prosecutor Greg Andres told the jury at the start of his two-hour closing argument. "This is a case about lies."

READ MORE

Manafort's fraud trial, by the numbers

Good morning. We'll hear closing arguments when court resumes today, beginning with the prosecution. In the meantime, here's a recap of the trial by the numbers, compiled by NBC News from official court transcripts.

27 witnesses on behalf of the government 

0 witnesses on behalf of the defense 

367 exhibits admitted on behalf of the government 

12 exhibits admitted on behalf of the defense 

Current as of Aug. 14, 2018 at 3 p.m. 

 

Defense rests after calling no witnesses, closing arguments to begin Wednesday

The defense rested its case earlier Tuesday without calling any witnesses. Why?

"This is the United States of America. You're presumed innocent until proven guilty. We believe the government cannot meet that burden," Manafort defense attorney Kevin Downing told members of the media after leaving court. 

Later in the afternoon, Judge T.S. Ellis adjourned court for the day after the charging conference, or a meeting between a judge and the lawyers from the defense and prosecution. 

Both sides submitted proposed changes to the draft jury instructions. The draft included 87 instructions to the jury but the final instructions were reduced to 83. All changes were agreed upon with the exception of one concerning comments that Judge Ellis has made during witness testimony.

Prosecutor Greg Andres, in particular, took issue with a comment that Ellis made during Rick Gates' testimony. Gates testified that Paul Manafort watched his finances very closely, "down to the penny". At the time, Ellis spoke up and said that Manafort must not have watched his finances that closely if Gates was able to embezzle from him.

After Andres gave this example, Judge Ellis joked, "That really hurt the government, didn't it?"

In the end, Ellis rewrote the instructions. The new instruction was not read aloud in court.

Court will reconvene for closing arguments at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Read the email from Manafort to Trump adviser Jared Kushner submitted into evidence

This email was submitted into evidence in the Manafort trial yesterday.

Paul Manafort emailed Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on November 30, 2016 recommending Stephen Calk for the Secretary of the Army. At the same time, Manafort had received the first part of what would be $16 million in loans from Calk's bank, the Federal Savings Bank.

Read it here

Good morning, and welcome to Day 11

The judge did not require the defense to identify any witnesses it might call — and it could turn out this morning that Manafort's team doesn't plan to call anyone. 

Judge Ellis just announced to the court that a sealed proceeding in the Manafort case is scheduled to begin shortly.

It is unclear if it is a continuation of yesterday's sealed motion. Open court will begin when the sealed hearing is over.