The two-week trial in Virginia’s Eastern District centered around allegations that Manafort had committed tax fraud while attempting to conceal his income from the IRS—and, when he went broke in 2015, fabricated income and assets to pad out fraudulent bank-loan applications. Prosecutors on Mueller’s team painted Manafort throughout the trial as a liar who didn’t pay his taxes. The former Trump campaign chairman stood accused of laundering millions of dollars through a complex network of offshore shell companies and of hiding more than $60 million in foreign bank accounts, all in an elaborate attempt to defraud his own government while working for pro-Russian entities in Ukraine.
“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it,” Andres said in the government’s closing statement. “And when he didn’t have any money, he lied to make more.” Manafort “lied,” Andres said, to his bookkeeper and his tax preparer—both of whom testified against him in the case—and failed to report $15 million in income to the IRS from 2010 to 2014. That year, Manafort’s “cash spigot” and “golden goose”—the pro-Russian president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, whom Manafort advised for more than a decade—was ousted and fled to Russia. Manafort’s funds dried up, and that’s when he began committing bank fraud to secure loans, according to prosecutors. “Manafort’s scheme was not that complicated,” Andres said on Wednesday. “But it was hidden for sure.”
The defense, meanwhile, cast Gates, Manafort’s longtime business partner, as the real villain. “To the very end, he lied to you,” Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, told jurors in his closing statement last week. Manafort’s 46-year-old protégé was the real mastermind behind the alleged financial crimes, Downing claimed, as he stole from “the cookie jar” and embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort’s firm. Manafort and Gates were indicted in October 2017 on charges including conspiracy to launder money and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. Gates struck a deal with Mueller earlier this year.
Trump told reporters last week that his former campaign chairman was a “good guy” who’d been treated unfairly by Mueller. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee, had given Mueller the authority to investigate whether Manafort “committed a crime or crimes arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government.” Trump’s comments raised questions about a potential presidential pardon, which he declined to rule out.
Prosecutors and court observers held their collective breath last Thursday when jurors submitted a note to the court following several hours of deliberation. But jurors hadn’t recached a verdict—they were asking the judge to clarify what “beyond a reasonable doubt” meant, and to explain the requirements for reporting a foreign bank account to the U.S. government. On Friday afternoon, reporters who jostled their way into the courthouse after receiving an email from the special counsel’s office alerting them to another jury note were similarly disappointed: The jurors were just asking if they could leave early.
After a weekend off, during which jurors had been admonished to avoid all media and any conversation related to the trial, deliberations resumed on Monday and continued throughout the day, giving defense attorneys—and presumably Trump as well—some reasons for hope. But that was dashed by Tuesday’s dramatic conclusion in a probe that has hung over much of Trump’s presidency and made everything to follow a matter of fraught conjecture.