The defence in Paul Manafort’s bank fraud trial rested its case Tuesday in Virginia without calling him to testify or requesting other witnesses.
The judge, T.S. Ellis III, rejected a bid by the defence to dismiss the 18 charges Manafort faces in Federal Court.
Kevin Downing unsuccessfully argued the prosecution hadn’t met its burden of proof.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Asked by Ellis whether he wished to testify in his defence, Manafort responded: “No, sir.” The decision came after a more than two-hour hearing that was closed to the public.
The judge has not given any explanation for the sealed proceeding, only noting that a transcript of it would become public after Manafort’s case concludes.
The government alleges Manafort hid at least $16 million US in income from the IRS between 2010 and 2014 by disguising the money he earned advising politicians in Ukraine as loans and hiding it in foreign banks. Then, after his money in Ukraine dried up, he defrauded banks by lying about his income on loan applications and concealing other financial information, such as mortgages, it’s alleged.
Manafort’s legal team has blamed any wrongdoing on Rick Gates, the former Manafort protégé who testified he and his former boss committed crimes together for years. Defence lawyers have called Gates a liar, philanderer and embezzler as they’ve sought to undermine his testimony.
Bank chairman offered a post
Gates said he helped Manafort, 69, commit crimes in an effort to lower his tax bill and fund his lavish lifestyle.
During testimony, Gates was forced to admit to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and conducting an extramarital affair.
It was also alleged at trial in Alexandria, Va., that Manafort, in November 2016, passed on to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner the name of the chairman of Federal Savings Bank executive for consideration for a post in the administration. The bank had signed off on millions in loans for Manafort despite concerns from some officials about his credit and the source of his financing.
Manafort’s lawyers argued there is no way the bank could have been defrauded because its chairman, Stephen Calk, knew that Manafort’s finances were in disarray but approved the loan anyway.
Ellis, in making his ruling on the motion to dismiss, said the defence made a “significant” argument, but ultimately ruled the question “is an issue for the jury.”
The trial is the first to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but it does not relate to any allegations of Russian election interference or possible co-ordination with the Trump campaign.
Gates was charged with lying to the FBI as part of the special counsel probe.
Former Trump campaign chair
Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and was elevated to campaign chair in May. He left the campaign in August that year, days after a New York Times report linking him to accounts with Ukrainians.
Manafort also faces a scheduled trial in the District of Columbia in September, where is charged with conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the United States, making false statements, and charges in connection with failing to register as a foreign agent even though he lobbied in the U.S. on behalf of the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian government of former president Viktor Yanukovych.
Trump, who has repeatedly denied colluding with Russia, has tried to downplay Manafort’s influence on his campaign, although he has said on more than one occasion he thinks the longtime Republican operative has been treated unfairly by authorities.
Russia has denied being involved in efforts to disrupt U.S. elections, although at a joint news conference with Trump last month in Helsinki, President Vladmir Putin did admit he wanted the Republican to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
With files from CBC News