Jury Finds Paul Manafort Guilty In Federal Tax And Bank Fraud Trial | KNKX

Jury Finds Paul Manafort Guilty In Federal Tax And Bank Fraud Trial

Aug 21, 2018
Originally published on August 22, 2018 7:14 am

Updated at 6:26 p.m. ET

A federal jury on Tuesday found Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, guilty on eight of the 18 charges he faced in his tax and bank fraud trial.

The verdict delivered a painful fall from grace for a top political operative who has advised presidents from Gerald Ford to Donald Trump and a shot in the arm to an investigation derided by President Trump as a "witch hunt."

Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial on the other 10 counts. Prosecutors have until Aug. 29 to notify the judge if they are going to retry Manafort on those counts.

The Manafort trial marked the first public court test of the work by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed 15 months ago to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and any American conspirators.

As is their practice, government lawyers made no comment after the verdict.

Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing told reporters outside the courthouse that Manafort is evaluating his options.

"Mr. Manafort is disappointed at not getting acquittals all the way through or a complete hung jury on all counts," Downing said.

Manafort blinked slowly as the first few charges were read, but he said nothing. He was led out of the court by U.S. Marshals Service deputies but was not handcuffed.

Manafort's defense attorneys and the government's lawyers shook hands solemnly.

Political reaction

Speaking on Tuesday evening in Charleston, W.Va., Trump said Manafort was a "good man."

"It doesn't involve me, but I still feel, you know, it's a very sad thing that happened. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion ... This is a witch hunt and a disgrace," Trump said.

Mueller's supporters said Manafort's conviction showed just the opposite: how real the work of the special counsel's office actually is.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, also used a statement to warn Trump against disrupting the special counsel's office or trying to vitiate the work of the jury.

"This verdict makes it absolutely clear that the Mueller probe is not a 'witch hunt' — it is a serious investigation that is rooting out corruption and Russian influence on our political system at the highest levels.

"The president's campaign [chairman] was just convicted of serious federal crimes by a jury of his peers, despite the president's continued attempts to undermine the investigation which has brought Mr. Manafort to justice. Any attempt by the president to pardon Mr. Manafort or interfere in the investigation into his campaign would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress."

Sometime Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., however, underscored that neither Manafort's conviction nor the separate case involving Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen had established any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian attack on the 2016 election. On Tuesday, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, including campaign finance violations, in federal court in New York.

The road ahead

No sentencing hearing has been scheduled so far. Manafort was expected to be returned to custody; another federal judge had ordered that he be confined after he was charged with witness tampering in another case.

Manafort is set to go on trial in a separate federal case in September in Washington, D.C. He has also been charged with conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent in that case.

Jurors had been deliberating since Thursday and had sent a few notes to Ellis asking questions about their work. He had urged them to continue to try to reach consensus on all the charges but that did not appear to be possible by Tuesday afternoon.

The judge had allowed lawyers for the government and Manafort to read the notes sent into court by the jury.

The deliberations followed two weeks of evidence and testimony.

The government says Manafort hid income from foreign consulting from the IRS and then, when that work dried up, lied to banks to qualify for loans to sustain his lavish lifestyle.

Manafort's defense attorneys say he didn't pay close enough attention to his personal finances in order to have deliberately broken the law, and they sought to damage the credibility of the star witness in the case, former Manafort protégé Rick Gates.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All morning, we're bringing you the latest on two major court cases connected to President Donald Trump. The president's former lawyer pleaded guilty to eight charges yesterday. They included illegal payments to keep two women from talking about affairs they claim to have had with Trump. Within minutes of that plea, a jury convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight tax and fraud charges. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on 10 other counts. The president responded to the cases on Twitter this morning, accusing Cohen of making up stories for a plea deal and calling Manafort a brave man. NPR's national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is with us to talk through the Manafort verdict and what comes next from that. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: So the jury in this case deliberated for nearly four days, but they couldn't come to a consensus on all these charges. What happened?

JOHNSON: So this was a heavy case. Remember, 27 witnesses, 388 exhibits, lots of testimony about tax returns and foreign bank accounts in Cyprus. It's not a huge surprise this jury couldn't decide 10 of the charges. Mostly, they couldn't decide on the bank fraud counts. But they did convict on all the charges against Paul Manafort that involve filing false tax returns. They convicted on one count of failing to file a foreign bank account report and two counts of bank fraud. That's no small thing. This guy was the chairman of President Trump's campaign during a crucial period in 2016. He's now been convicted of multiple felonies.

MARTIN: So what about those parts, those counts that the jury couldn't reach a consensus on?

JOHNSON: The judge says prosecutors have until August 29 to tell the judge whether they want a new trial on those 10 counts or to just let it slide. There is reason to believe they may let it slide. Paul Manafort is 69 years old and he's sentenced on those eight convictions already that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. And Manafort faces another trial related to his foreign lobbying work and alleged money laundering in Washington, D.C., next month. Manafort's lawyer says when it comes to these Virginia convictions, he's evaluating all his options now.

MARTIN: You were inside the courtroom for the verdict. What was the atmosphere like?

JOHNSON: Yeah. Lots of U.S. marshals and court security officers showed up to monitor the doors. Paul Manafort stood up. He blinked slowly several times as those first three guilty verdicts were read. Otherwise, he didn't show much emotion. And, you know, Paul Manafort was very careful in the course of this trial. He, on several days, did not wear socks because the jail was giving him white socks to wear with his dark shoes, and he didn't like it. So the notion that this guy is now facing seven to 10 years in prison when he's so proud is really quite something. The jurors were excused. Before they left, they looked very tired. They'd been at this case for 16 long days. When it was all over, the government lawyers shook hands with all the defense lawyers, kind of like a baseball game, but a really somber one.

MARTIN: So at the same time, President Trump keeps calling the overall Russia probe a witch hunt. Last night in West Virginia, he took the opportunity to praise Paul Manafort. He said he's sad about what's happened to him. He said Paul Manafort is a good man. And he also said, where's the collusion? This special counsel investigation was supposed to be about Russian collusion - where's the collusion? I mean, he was right. This wasn't - they didn't find any evidence of collusion in this.

JOHNSON: This case was not supposed to be about links to Russia. In fact, the judge in this case prohibited the government and the defense from really going deeply into Russia or even using the word oligarch in the course of this trial. But it's hard to call this proceeding a witch hunt when Paul Manafort has been convicted on eight felony charges and faces more in D.C. next month. You know, this case could still end in a political way with a pardon from President Trump. I know that people on Capitol Hill were concerned about that yesterday. And there's reason to believe it may happen. One of the people in Manafort's corner is a longtime lawyer named Richard Hibey, a trusted adviser to Manafort for years. Hibey showed up during this trial. Interestingly enough, he has a reputation for being able to get pardons for some of his high-profile clients. Back in the Iran-Contra scandal, he represented a higher-up in the CIA who eventually, two weeks after his conviction, was pardoned by then-President George H.W. Bush. So it is still possible. It's also possible Paul Manafort, after all this, could wind up cooperating with the government.

MARTIN: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson unpacking the Paul Manafort conviction. Thanks so much.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.