Manafort lawyers rest without calling witnesses in fraud trial

Manafort lawyers rest without calling witnesses in fraud trial

Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's lawyers have rested their case without calling any witnesses in his bank and tax fraud trial.

"No, sir", Manafort replied when asked by the judge if he'd like to take the stand in his own defense.

The 12 jurors in the case will hear closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, according to the Washington Post. The defence's decision to rest without presenting its own case in his fraud trial is relatively common, experts said, given that the burden of proof is on the prosecution.

The defense also attacked the prosecution's key witness, Manafort's former protégé Rick Gates, who testified that he and Manafort falsified documents presented to banks and the IRS. 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. Defense attorneys called Gates a liar, philanderer and embezzler as they've sought to undermine his testimony.

Ellis, in making his ruling, said the defense made a "significant" argument, but he ultimately ruled the question "is an issue for the jury". Manafort went on to become campaign manager of Donald Trump's 2016 election bid.

The trial is the first courtroom test for Mueller, who indicted Manafort in October 2017 as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

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Prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller offered 27 witnesses over two weeks.

Gates struck a deal with Mueller in February, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Calk, who served as an economic adviser to Trump during his presidential campaign, wrote to Manafort after the election with a list of eight administration roles and 19 ambassadorships he would be interested in holding in the new administration.

Gates testified that he helped Manafort commit crimes in an effort to lower his tax bill and fund his lavish lifestyle. During testimony, Gates was forced to admit embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and conducting an extramarital affair.

Besides the trial underway in the USA district court in Alexandria, Virginia, Manafort faces multiple charges of conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice filed separately by Mueller's team in the Washington, DC district court.

Before they rested, Judge T.S. Ellis III denied a motion to acquit Manafort.

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