Manafort Lawyer Says Prosecutors Failed to Prove Case; Defense Rests

August 14, 2018 Updated: August 14, 2018

Attorneys for Paul Manafort rested their case on Aug. 14 without calling any witnesses, including the former Trump campaign chairman himself, who told the judge he didn’t want to testify in his own defense against bank- and tax-fraud charges.

Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing said Manafort’s legal team chose not to mount a defense because prosecutors hadn’t met the legal bar needed to prove their case.

“We’ve rested because Mr. Manafort and his legal team do not think the government has met its burden of proof,” Downing said.

The defense’s decision means that the closely watched case is expected to go to the 12-person jury on Aug. 15, after prosecutors and Manafort’s lawyers make their closing arguments, and instructions are issued to the jury.

Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Manafort as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. None of the charges against Manafort are related to election meddling.

Manafort, who has watched silently as the case against him was argued in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, was asked by Judge T.S. Ellis whether he wanted to testify.

“No, sir,” he replied.

Asked whether he was satisfied with the advice he’d received from his attorneys, Manafort said, “I am, your honor.”

That exchange took place without jurors in the courtroom. On Aug. 14, jurors were recalled to hear of the defense team’s decision and then were dismissed for the day.

Manafort isn’t required to testify because of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Manafort made millions of dollars working for Ukrainian politicians, before taking an unpaid position with then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign that lasted five months. The charges against Manafort involve activities that predate his tenure with the Trump campaign.

If found guilty on all charges, Manafort could face eight to 10 years in prison, according to sentencing expert Justin Paperny.

Manafort’s lawyers moved on Aug. 13 to have all the charges dismissed, in part arguing the prosecution hadn’t proven he willingly committed crimes. The motion was a standard defense request and was viewed by legal experts as unlikely to succeed.

“They are all jury issues,” Ellis said, explaining that he believed it should be up to the jury to decide.