Manafort Didn’t Knowingly Commit Crimes, Defense Says in Closing Argument

August 16, 2018 Updated: August 17, 2018

The defense counsel for Paul Manafort said in its closing argument that Manafort was transparent with financial institutions and that any issues with his financial situation were well known before bankers extended any loans to him.

The lawyers also sought to emphasize the idea that Manafort didn’t knowingly break the law–a requirement for conviction–and was rather failed by the bookkeepers, accountants and other professionals in whom he trusted his financial affairs.

“Sometimes, the people we rely on are trustworthy. Sometimes they are not,” said lawyer Richard Westling.

Prosecutors say Manafort, 69, tried to mislead bankers with doctored financial statements in 2015 and 2016 to secure more than $20 million in loans, and failed to pay taxes on more than $15 million that he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine.

The trial is the first for special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked with investigating claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and potential obstruction of justice by the president. He also was authorized by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to prosecute “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” The charges against Manafort aren’t related to the collusion claims and predate his work for the Trump campaign.

The defense took particular aim at Rick Gates, Manafort’s former associate, who admitted in court to an extramarital affair. Gates also said he helped Manafort doctor financial statements, hide foreign income, and evade hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. income taxes.

Defense lawyers decided not to call any witnesses in the trial, and Manafort, a veteran Republican political operative, didn’t testify in his own defense.

Manafort made millions of dollars working for Ukrainian politicians before taking an unpaid position with Trump’s campaign. He was on the campaign team for five months and led it in mid-2016 when Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee.

If found guilty on all 18 charges by the 12-person jury, he could face eight to 10 years in prison, according to sentencing expert Justin Paperny.

Ellis was next set to instruct the jury, a process that he said would take an hour and a half. That made it likely the jury would not start deliberating until Aug. 16.