Jury urged to find Manafort guilty

Closing arguments made in trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Paul Manafort lied to keep himself flush with cash and later to maintain his luxurious lifestyle when his income dropped off, prosecutors told jurors Wednesday in closing arguments at the former Trump campaign chairman’s financial fraud trial.

The government’s case boils down to “Mr. Manafort and his lies,” prosecutor Greg Andres said.

“When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort’s money, it is littered with lies,” Andres said as he made his final argument that the jury should find President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman guilty of 18 felony counts.

Attorneys for Manafort, who is accused of tax evasion and bank fraud, spoke next, arguing against his guilt by saying he left the particulars of his finances to other people, including his former deputy Rick Gates.

Manafort’s trial is the first to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but it does not relate to Russian election interference or possible coordination with the Trump campaign — the main topics of Mueller’s probe.

Neither Manafort nor Gates has been charged in connection with his Trump campaign work. But Mueller’s legal team says it discovered Manafort hiding millions of dollars in income as a result of the ongoing probe.

Defense attorney Richard Westling told jurors that the fact that Manafort employed a team of accountants, bookkeepers and tax preparers shows he wasn’t trying to hide anything. The lawyer appeared to be trying to blunt the effect of testimony from some of the people who handled Manafort’s finances, including his bookkeeper, who said he concealed offshore bank accounts and lied.

Westling said the evidence against Manafort has been cherry-picked by Mueller’s team and doesn’t show jurors the full picture.

During the prosecution’s arguments, jurors took notes as Manafort primarily directed his gaze at a computer screen where documents were shown.

The screen showed emails written by Manafort that contained some of the most damning evidence that he was aware of the fraud and not simply a victim of underlings who managed his financial affairs.

Andres highlighted one email in which he said Manafort sent an inflated statement of his income to bank officers reviewing a loan application. He highlighted another in which Manafort acknowledged his control of one of more than 30 holding companies in Cyprus that prosecutors say he used to funnel more than $60 million he earned advising politicians in Ukraine.

Prosecutors say Manafort falsely declared that money to be loans rather than income to keep from paying taxes on it.

Manafort chose not to testify or call any witnesses in his defense. His lawyers have tried to blame their client’s financial mistakes on Gates, calling him a liar and philanderer.

Gates, who struck a plea deal with prosecutors, told jurors he helped conceal millions of dollars in foreign income and submitted fake mortgage and tax documents.

In a brief rebuttal after defense arguments, Andres said the defense “wants to make this case about Robert Gates,” but hasn’t explained “the dozens of documents” Manafort’s name is on.

Defense lawyer Kevin Downing said the government was so desperate to make a case against Manafort that it gave a sweetheart plea deal to Gates, and he would say whatever was necessary so it would not recommend he serve jail time.

After the closing arguments were finished, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III began his instructions to jurors, which he had earlier estimated could take up to an hour.