The trial of Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Donald Trump campaign, resumes once more today in Virginia.
The case, now entering its ninth day, is the first to result from charges brought by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into possible Russian election meddling.
Mr Manafort, who stepped down from the Trump team in August 2016 after being accused of receiving $12m off the books to promote Ukraine’s pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych (prior to his being forced out of Kiev by revolution), was indicted on 12 counts in October 2017, rising to 32 in February.
He is accused of concealing $30m in overseas income garnered from his work as a political consultant and the charges against him range from conspiracy against the US, money laundering, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, failure to file accounts and tax evasion.
Prosecutors are currently seeking to prove the ex-lobbyist obtained millions of dollars in bank loans under false pretences.
Follow the latest developments in the trial below after a week of salacious testimony in which former Manafort deputy and business partner Rick Gates admitted to falsifying documents on behalf of his mentor.
Mr Raico testified that he understood the friend described to be Mr Manafort’s business partner Rick Gates, who purchased New York Yankees season tickets.
Mr Raico described an email he had received from his assistant, who detailed a phone call she had with Manafort. In the conversation she summarized in her email, Manafort explained that the income for his business DMP International had recently increased.
“He explained to me that he is in the consulting business and naturally the income fluctuates,” the email to Raico from his assistant read.
But Raico expressed some skepticism.
“A plus B didn’t equal C all the time,”Mr Raico testified to the financial information the bank would get from Mr Manafort.
“Mr. Calk was interested in politics,” Mr Raico of Federal Savings Bank said from the witness box.
Mr Raico testified he offered the investigators information to build their case against Mr Manafort in June 2017. Mr Manafort is accused of defrauding the bank for $16 million.
Mr Manafort denies all the charges against him.
Dennis Raico, a loan officer at Federal Savings Bank, has testified that he acted as a go-between for his bank’s founder and chairman Stephen Calk and Paul Manafort.
Mr Raico testified that this took place as the bank rushed to approve loans while Mr Calk allegedly sought upper-level perks in the Trump political operation.
Dennis Raico, the former executive, said Federal Savings Bank CEO Stephen Calk asked him to make the call to Mr Manafort on 11 November 2016, just days after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election.
Mr Raico was granted immunity for his testimony.
Judge Ellis and the legal teams are back in court.
After conferring with an attorney for the prosecutors – including Greg Andres – and an attorney for the defense briefly, Mr Ellis said:
“Mr. Andres, you may call your next witness.”
That’s when Andres reminded him the jury still needed to be brought in.
The courtroom erupted in laughter.
Lawyers from both sides huddled with Judge TS Ellis twice this morning. After almost an hour of waiting, lawyers from both sides and Judge Ellis returned to the courtroom at 11:07 a.m.
Mr Ellis brought the 16 jurors in, stressed to them the importance of not discussing the case and told them to “keep an open mind.” He also said the court plans to “continue with evidence” presentations in the afternoon today and that he would “expect to make progress.”
Mr Ellis then said the court would take an open lunch and reconvene at 1:45 p.m. ET.
He gave no further detail about the morning’s delay.
It was unclear exactly why testimony did not resume on Friday morning. Judge Ellis, the federal judge overseeing the case, reminded jurors on Friday to “keep an open mind,” and said that Mr Manafort is presumed innocent. He gave them explicit instructions to not talk to one another or others about the case.
His comments came after holding a long conversation with lawyers for Mr Manafort and the government in the morning.
“I have a lot of other matters that have intruded,” he said.
Emails were previously shown in court that Mr Manafort had suggested his associate Rick Gates help the founder and CEO of the bank, Stephen Calk, get a job as Army Secretary in the Trump administration, as well as an invite to the presidential inauguration
The judge overseeing the Paul Manafort trial has granted a request from the Special Counsel’s office to keep secret a conversation that might shed light on its ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia.
The conversation came on Tuesday, as Rick Gates, Mr Manafort’s business partner who worked on both the Trump campaign and the Trump inaugural, was on the witness stand. During his cross examination of Mr Gates, Mr Manafort defense attorney Kevin Downing asked, if, during Mr Gates’s cooperation with the special counsel after he agreed to a plea deal, he was interviewed about the Trump campaign. Mr Gates said he had been.
A reminder of what’s at stake in this trial.
Mr Manafort is facing 18 felony charges against him, nine of which relate to bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy and carry maximum possible prison sentences of 30 years.
If he were found guilty of all nine by the Virginia federal court, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 270 years in jail.
It might also be worth reminding ourselves of President Trump’s stance on the trial.
“He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something?… I feel badly for some people because they have gone back 12 years to find things,” The New York Times quotes the president as saying, a clear attempt to distance himself from the defendant, who in fact worked for him for five months.
He also tweeted the following when Mr Manafort’s bail was revoked in June.
What we can expect today are more bankers from Banc of California, Genesis Capital and the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago to take the stand and give their own testimony in relation to the felony charges Mr Manafort is facing.
Mr Manafort is understood to have received $16m in loans from the last of these institutions.
It’s worth restating that the prosecution is unlikely to delve into direct questions relating to the Donald Trump camp or its possible connection to Russian agents interested in fixing the result of the 2016 US presidential election during the current trial.
The Manafort case is about getting to the bottom of apparent financial irregularities concerning the individual and his time working as a political consultant in Eastern Europe between 2006 and 2015.
It does, however, establish a clear link between key Trump allies and associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.
Or, as Judge Ellis framed it in an address to prosecutors during a preliminary hearing: “You don’t really care about Mr Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about what information Mr Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.”
Here’s The Independent’s US team on Rick Gates’ testimony this week, in which he revealed details of secret bank accounts in Cyprus and his own extramarital affair, insisting the luxury lifestyle of “fancy hotels” he was accustomed to was not paid for with embezzled cash.
Prosecutor Kevin Downing asked the 46-year-old witness: “There’s another life, right, the other Rick Gates? The secret Rick Gates?”
Mr Manafort’s defence team is expected to attack Mr Gates’ credibility when it makes its case next week.
Yesterday’s proceedings had begun with a surprise near-apology from outspoken Judge Thomas Selby Ellis III, who had accused attorneys working on behalf of Mr Mueller of allowing IRS agent Michael Welch to watch the trial from the public gallery, potentially biasing the witness’s evidence.
“I was critical of counsel for… allowing an expert to remain in the courtroom. You may put that aside… I may well have been wrong,” he said.
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