Paul Manafort’s defense team rested its case late morning on August 14, declining to call a single witness or introduce any of its own evidence. The arguments before the first of at least two federal criminal trials for Paul Manafort will conclude August 15 after the presentation of closing arguments in the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va. Then Judge T. S. Ellis will charge the jury with their instructions, and we will all await the verdict.
They will judge the cases against Manafort for multiple felonies including tax fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit the same. The jury did not hear, will not hear, and will not judge any evidence or charges related to Russian interference with U.S. elections, treason, or President Trump. This first prosecution issued from the offices of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller is chock full of pedestrian charges and utterly lacking in election stealing, spying, or collusion with Moscow.
And Justice for All
The entire prosecution is a burlesque. It is simply criminal prosecution being used as a lever. Robert Mueller wants incriminating information on Donald Trump. If we grant Mueller an honest motive, he sincerely believes Manafort has that information. Since Mueller cannot legally compel Manafort to testify against Trump, he uses a workaround with identical effect. Manafort can give up Trump to Mueller, or suffer the raging storms of multiple federal criminal actions, pre-dawn raids, and solitary confinement.
Judge Ellis himself called the tune when he addressed the prosecution, saying, “you don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud.” A man who displays his earned reputation as a jurist with little truck for trial shenanigans, he said “[y]ou really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.”
Burden of Proof
A defense resting its case without putting up its own witnesses or evidence is uncommon but hardly unheard of. If the defense believes the jury will be unlikely to vote guilty based on the evidence presented by the prosecution thus far, resting may be the best chance they have for a favorable verdict.
Judge T.S. Ellis
Manafort himself briefly addressed the court outside the jury’s presence so that Judge Ellis himself could question the defendant and his decision not to testify in his own defense. Satisfied the decision was considered, the judge moved on to other business. The court and counsel will shortly settle arguments regarding jury instructions, and final arguments will be delivered on Wednesday, August 15.
Paul Manafort will be back in federal court in September to face more federal criminal charges that have nothing whatsoever to do with the corruption of elections, undue influence upon the body politic, Russian interference in U.S. domestic political concerns, or President Donald J. Trump.