A federal prosecutor made his closing pitch to jurors in the Paul Manafort trial Wednesday morning, telling them that the one time Trump campaign chairman’s financial records, emails and memos were “littered with lies.”
“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and he lied to get more money when he didn’t,” said Greg Andres, a prosecutor with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. “This is a case about lies.”
In his closing argument, Mr. Andres emphasized how Mr. Manafort lied to the IRS by hiding income he earned in the Ukraine and later deceived banks for fraudulent mortgages when that money dried up. For nearly two hours, Mr. Andres methodically walked jurors through witness testimony, financial documents and emails from Mr. Manafort himself.
Mr. Andres broke Mr. Manafort’s alleged crimes into two parts. First, he used 31 overseas accounts in Cyprus and elsewhere to hide from the IRS as much as $60 million he made lobbying for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions. Second, when Mr. Yanukovych and his party was removed from power, Mr. Manafort turned to bank fraud to fund his lavish lifestyle, Mr. Andres said. He painted Mr. Manafort as a con artist who misleads his own accountants about the sources of income, repeatedly telling jurors that Mr. Manafort lied.
Mr. Manafort’s attorneys will deliver a rebuttal Wednesday afternoon. Judge T. S. Ellis III ordered a lunch break after Mr. Andres‘ closing argument in the case which alleges 18 counts of bank and tax fraud against Mr. Manafort. The charges, however, do not relate to his brief time running the Trump campaign.
During his closing argument, Mr. Andres spent considerable timing addressing the testimony of Rick Gates, a one-time Manafort protege who testified against his former boss. Mr. Gates, the prosecution’s star witness, was savaged on the stand by Manafort attorney Kevin Downing. During his testimony, Mr. Gates confessed to embezzling from Mr. Manafort and an extramarital affair.
Mr. Andres told jurors they don’t need to believe Mr. Gates’ testimony, but should compare it to the testimony of other witnesses — including Mr. Manafort’s accountants and bookkeepers — who detailed the steps Mr. Manafort took to hide his income from the IRS. He also said Mr. Manafort’s attorneys focused more on Mr. Gates’ own crimes, avoiding direct questions about Mr. Manafort’s finances.
“And what about Mr. Gates’ admitted affair?” Mr. Andres asked jurors. “Was it to distract you? Does it matter? I’m not asking you to like him.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, the star witness in this case is the documents,” he said.
Next, Mr. Andres targeted defense counsel’s claim that Mr. Gates was the one who had secretly moved money through the overseas accounts to hide his own embezzlement. Showing jurors, emails in which Mr. Manafort refers to his overseas as holdings as “my accounts” and directs funds to pay clothing stores and landscapers. Mr. Andres said it made no sense that Mr. Gates would be using the money to buy expensive items for Mr. Manafort.
He asked jurors if it was possible that Mr. Gates put $60 million in Mr. Manafort’s accounts and then use the money to buy $15 million in clothes and cars.
“Does that make any sense at all?” Andres asked. “We should all be so lucky.”
Defense counsel’s closing argument is expected to take two hours on Wednesday afternoon. Then Judge Ellis will give the jurors instructions before they began deliberations.
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