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'A risky game for a judge to play'

More from Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney and NBC News analyst, on Judge Ellis' decision to prevent the prosecution showing more photos of Manafort's expensive suits and luxury goods:

"Some judges recognize when the government has a strong case and dial it back a bit (i.e., limit the government’s presentation in some way) ensuring that there is a clean record on appeal, if the government should obtain a conviction.

"It’s a bit of a risky game for a judge to play. He should just call balls and strikes, and apply the rules of evidence as written.

"Here, I believe that means the photographs would be admissible under Rule 403 as more probative than prejudicial. But, I’ve had judges say to me, in trial, you don’t need it (i.e., you will thank me when the record goes up to the appellate court and it is clean).

"The government cannot appeal an acquittal, so the judge’s calculation carries much more risk for the government than for the defendant."

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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.

Government rests its case against Paul Manafort

Prosecutors rested their case against Manafort around 5 p.m. Monday, and the jury is dismissed for the day.

Judge T.S. Ellis will talk to the defense about their potential witnesses, with the jury due back at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Manafort's defense attorney previews closing argument

Judge T.S. Ellis heard arguments from both sides to consider allowing a witness to testify about Paul Manafort's foreign bank account reporting responsibilities.

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye said that the jury needs to see these filings because it shows that Manafort knew what the law was and violated it anyway. He said the defense is planning on arguing that Manafort didn't own more that 50 percent of DMP International, LLC and thus was not personally responsible for filing an FBAR for the company.

For his part, defense attorney Thomas Zehnle said that there has been no evidence that shows that Manafort had to file an FBAR on behalf of DMP. "They've already thrown the kitchen sink at him," Zehnle said. "Now they're throwing the plumbing and pipes."

Ellis asked Zehnle if his team is planning on arguing that during closing. After initially saying they wouldn't, defense attorney Richard Westling asked for a moment to consult with Zehnle.

Zehnle then said that the government had a chance to indict DMP but chose not to, instead indicting Manafort alone. Manafort's personal reporting responsibilities goes to intent, he said and that they plan to argue that Manafort was not responsible for filing DMP's foreign bank records.

Ellis called a 15-minute recess to consider the matter but warned that "neither side is going to be happy" with whatever he decides.

After the recess, Ellis heard more argument.

Asonye said that after consulting with the defense counsel, he understands that they intend to argue that the Cypriot accounts that Manafort controlled were in fact DMP International's accounts. If that's the case, he said that the government needs to further address Manafort's willfulness by calling Paula Liss back to testify as to his reporting requirements.

Ellis called another recess to consider the matter but said if he grants the request, he'll instruct the jury to consider Liss' testimony only in regards to willfulness.

Testimony: Federal Savings Bank took a hit for Manafort's loans

When Richard Westling resumed his cross examination, he asked Brennan about the process of approving the loan for 377 Union Street in Brooklyn.

The defense showed the credit memorandum Brennan wrote for the loan, which he would do at the last stage for all loans. He provided a risk rating of 4 — which is considered “average.” Over a 4 rating, a risk is considered troubled and is not approved.

Brennan said later in Greg Andres' redirect that he didn’t think the loan should be rated a 4, but that the loan should not be made. However, since the loan was already  approved, he had to provide at least a 4 rating as higher ratings are not approved.

Brennan said he had collected information on Manafort as part of the process and identified two key credit risk issues  his past work for foreign governments provided an unknown risk to the bank, and his New York properties potentially losing value if the housing market crashed.

Throughout his cross, and re-cross, Westling sought to sow doubt in the bank’s proficiency and blame them for the errors on Manafort’s applications. He asked Brennan about an issue with the Bridgehampton loan that incorrectly computed Manafort’s income, an error that made it look larger. Westling also pointed out that some at the bank were aware that Manafort’s initial Union Street loan was in default.

Westling also asked Brennan about the information inputted on the 1003 form, or the loan application, implying someone other than Manafort might have provided the incorrect information, rather than Manafort himself.

He also asked if P&L sheets can be provided by others, including accountants, bookkeepers or business associates. Brennan said they could be.

After, Andres asked Brennan if Federal Savings Bank made money off the Manafort loans. Brennan answered that the bank took a hit and wrote off the loans. He said the bank is still owed $11.8 million, but he didn’t specify how to account for the discrepancy from $16 million.