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‘No, Sir’: Manafort Declines to Testify as Judge Ultimately Moves Past Argument Over Evidence


Paul Manafort mugshot

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort declined to testify in his bank and tax fraud trial on Tuesday. Nor did Manafort’s team of lawyers attempt to mount a defense, as Law&Crime’s Colin Kalmbacher reports from Eastern District of Virginia.

“No, sir,” Manafort said when asked by Judge T.S. Ellis III if he wished to testify.

Ellis also denied a motion to acquit Manafort.

Team Manafort had argued that the government did not present “substantial evidence that Mr. Manafort is guilty of these charges,” in particular pointing to evidence that was not “material” to Federal Savings bank executive Stephen Calk giving Manafort a loan.

You may recall that both the judge and Manafort’s defense warmed to the idea that Manafort couldn’t have defrauded the bank if the man who approved the loan knew Manafort’s “representations were false” at the time anyway.

The first major mention of Stephen Calk came one week ago, when he was mentioned in the same breath as the Trump campaign. It was the first time the Trump campaign had been referenced more specifically than “a presidential campaign.”

Calk and Manafort were in communication about a possible position on the Trump campaign, which Calk eventually got in the form of an economic advisory council spot. There were some questions raised about how the CEO of the Federal Savings Bank in Chicago was named to this position in August 2016.

Manafort left the Trump campaign that same month but Rick Gates, who testified against Manafort, stayed on. Prosecutors named Calk in the context of the campaign because of a possible pay-to-play scenario. Calk doled out a $9.5 million mortgage to Manafort despite risks and was rewarded. Prosecutors alleged that this was due to Calk’s other ambitions.

Despite this dispute over certain evidence, the judge denied the motion to acquit.

As Law & Crime’s Ronn Blitzer reported earlier Tuesday, however, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors may have to deal with a juror misconduct issue. The opinions on how significant that is have varied.

[Image via Alexandria Detention Center]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.