“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.”
Manafort had a co-conspirator, too, Andres alleged: his longtime business partner, Rick Gates. “Manafort chose somebody to lie with and engage in criminal activity with,” Andres said. “When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort’s money, it is littered with lies.” He was referring to the alleged tax-and-bank-fraud scheme. But the government’s repeated characterization of Manafort as a liar brought other, more recent episodes to mind. From July 2016 until Trump’s inauguration, Manafort denied any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia at least five times—denials that, in hindsight, seem brazen.
In March 2016, as his firm, Davis Manafort Partners, was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month—it reported a $1.2 million loss in 2016—and while he was reportedly in debt to pro-Russian interests by as much as $17 million, Manafort took on a pro bono role with the Trump campaign. A month later, he appeared to offer the Kremlin-linked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska access to the campaign in exchange for debt relief, and in May, he was told by the campaign’s foreign-policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, that “Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite some time and have been reaching out to me to discuss.” In June, Manafort attended a meeting at Trump Tower with Russian nationals offering dirt on Clinton. In August, Manafort was forced to formally step down as campaign chairman after reports surfaced that he was allocated millions in off-the-books payments by Ukraine’s pro-Russian Party of Regions. And throughout the campaign, Manafort remained in touch with with his longtime associate Konstantin Kilimnik—a Russian Ukrainian operative with ongoing ties to Russian intelligence services, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller’s warning to Trump: The cover-up is also a crime
Manafort’s lawyers have argued throughout the trial that Gates, who testified against Manafort last week, is the one with the credibility problem. “To the very end, he lied to you,” Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, told jurors in his closing statement on Wednesday. The 46-year-old protégé was the real mastermind behind the alleged financial crimes, Downing alleged, as he stole from “the cookie jar” and embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort’s firm.