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Manafort trial - live updates: Robert Mueller's team ask Rick Gates discussion to be kept secret to protect Russia investigation

Former Trump campaign chairman faces eighth day on trial for tax and bank fraud

Thursday 09 August 2018 22:36 BST
Ex-Trump Campaign Chair Manafort's Court Arrival

After three days of dramatic testimony in the trial of Paul Manafort,, prosecutors returned on Thursday to the nuts and bolts of their case against Donald Trump's former campaign chairman as they sought to show he obtained millions of dollars in bank loans under false pretenses.

Attorneys for special counsel Robert Mueller also got a rare — and narrow — acknowledgement from Judge TS Ellis III that he likely erred when he angrily confronted them a day earlier over whether he had allowed a witness to watch the trial.

The judge's comments and detailed testimony about Mr Manafort's loans opened the eighth day of his trial as prosecutors began presenting the bulk of their bank fraud case against him after spending days largely on tax-evasion allegations. Mr Manafort denies all the charges against him.

On Thursday, a bank employee told jurors how she discovered discrepancies in the information he put on his loan application, including holes in his claims about a New York City property. Melinda James, a Citizens Bank mortgage loan assistant, testified that Manafort had told the bank that the property would be used as a second residence, but she found it listed as a rental on a real estate website.

In another instance, Ms James said Mr Manafort maintained that there were no mortgages on a separate New York property when there actually were. All the while, Mr Manafort signed paperwork indicating he understood that he could face criminal or civil penalties if he lied to the bank.

Airbnb executive Darin Evenson also told jurors that one of Mr Manafort's New York City properties was offered as a rental through much of 2015 and 2016 — a direct contradiction of the documents the longtime political consultant submitted to obtain a $3.4 million loan. Another bank employee said the distinction matters because the bank caps loans for rentals at $1 million.

Please allow a moment for the live blog to load

Meanwhile, attorneys for Special Counsel Robert Mueller say in a court filing that “substantive evidence” of the investigation was discussed out of earshot of the jury or the public during the testimony of longtime Mr Manafort deputy Rick Gates earlier in the week.

Prosecutors say the conference involved Mr Manafort's attorneys attempting to pursue a line of questioning with Mr Gates. The filing does not identify the line of questioning, but one bench conference during Mr Gates' testimony was prompted by Mr Manafort lawyers asking whether he had spoken to Mr Mueller about his work on the Trump campaign.

Mr Mueller is investigating Russian election interference and any possible coordination with Trump associates - although the charges against Mr Manafort do not relate to collusion.

Mr Manafort's trial continues.

Associated Press


Welcome to The Independent's live blog on the unfolding trial of Paul Manafort. 

Samuel Osborne9 August 2018 11:36

Yesterday, Rick Gates was subject to a bruising cross-examination as he returned to the witness stand after testifying how at the behest of his longtime boss, Paul Manafort, he helped conceal millions of dollars in foreign income and submitted fake mortgage and tax documents.

You can read our reporting as his testimony happened here:

Samuel Osborne9 August 2018 11:37

The trial of Paul Manafort is expected to shift focus from his alleged tax evasion to bank fraud, as the prosecution's case heads into its final two days.

Prosecutors are expected to call a series of bankers to the stand to question them about Mr Manafort's alleged efforts to mislead them with doctored financial statements in a scramble in 2015 and 2016 to borrow against real estate.

Samuel Osborne9 August 2018 11:49

Of the 18 felony charges Mr Manafort faces, nine relate to bank fraud and involve mortgages from Citizens Bank, Banc of California, Genesis Capital, and the Federal Savings Bank, a small Chicago lender whose chief executive was named to an economic advisory panel to the Trump campaign.

Samuel Osborne9 August 2018 12:07

Mr Manafort's lawyers have not yet indicated whether they plan to call witnesses as part of his defense.

Their legal strategy so far has hinged on attacking the credibility of the prosecution's star witness, his former business partner, Rick Gates.

Samuel Osborne9 August 2018 12:32

Mr Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

According to trial testimony, he used the accounts to receive millions of dollars in payments for his work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Samuel Osborne9 August 2018 12:56

So, having waited for proceedings to open - Judge TS Ellis started with an apology. Well kind of.

Judge Ellis has been very outspoken during the trial, with has included several run-ins with the prosecution. One on Wednesday involved the judge admonishing counsel over an expert witness.

“I was critical of counsel for … allowing an expert to remain in the courtroom,” he said before testimony began. “You may put that aside… I may well have been wrong.”

On Wednesday, Judge Ellis scolded prosecutors for calling an IRS expert who has sat through the trial in the gallery. Prosecutors filed a motion Thursday morning pointing out that the transcript backed up their understanding that Ellis had explicitly allowed the expert to do so.

“The Court’s reprimand of government counsel suggested to the jury—incorrectly—that the government had acted improperly and in contravention of Court rules,” prosecutors wrote. “This prejudice should be cured.”

Judge Ellis said Thursday that he had not actually read the transcript, which was attached to the government motion.

But, the judge said, “I was probably wrong.”

Steve Anderson9 August 2018 15:37

With their first witness of the day, prosecutors have sought to detail how Paul Manafort allegedly defrauded Citizens Bank – obtaining a $3.4 million loan in part by falsely claiming a property he owned in New York was a second residence, rather than a rental property.

Melinda James, who worked at the bank, testified that all the applications Mr Manafort submitted indicated his property on 29 Howard St. was a second residence, her research indicated otherwise. She said that as she was processing the loan, she went to a website called StreetEasy to confirm the address.

“It was listed for rent,” Ms James testified.

Steve Anderson9 August 2018 16:04

Citizens Bank mortgage loan assistant Melinda James has also testified that Mr Manafort apparently lied about whether there was a mortgage on a townhouse he owned in Brooklyn.

Ms James said that in emails Mr Manafort indicated he owned the Carroll Gardens home “free and clear,” but insurance declarations showed a mortgage on the property. 

Steve Anderson9 August 2018 16:47

In his cross examination of mortgage loan assistant Melinda James, defense attorney Jay Nanavati sought to cast blame on Rick Gates for the inaccuracy of Paul Manafort’s loan application to Citizens Bank.

A central pillar of the defence's strategy has been to paint Mr Gates - described as Mr Manafort's 'right-hand man' as being the one behind any fraud.

Mr Gates agreed a plea deal with prosecutors earlier this year and has been their star witness during the trial.

Steve Anderson9 August 2018 17:37

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