The defense of onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort rested its case on Monday without calling a witness or presenting a piece of evidence. Manafort also told the judge in the case that he will not be taking the stand.
The prosecution rested its case earlier Monday. Judge T.S. Ellis instructed both sides to prepare to deliver closing arguments to the jury beginning 9:30 A.M. ET this morning. He also gave them strict instructions to limit those arguments to two hours each. According to the schedule the jury could begin deliberations in the case as early as tonight.
Manafort is not required to testify because of his Fifth Amendment Constitutional right against self-incrimination. Manafort said he would be invoking his right during a brief exchange with Ellis from the podium before the jury entered the courtroom.
“You have an absolute right to testify before this jury. You have an absolute right to remain silent before this jury,” Ellis said.
It was less surprising that Manafort did not testify than it was that the defense did not present any evidence nor call a single witness such as character witnesses to testify on Manafort’s behalf.
Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, said the defense didn’t do so and rested so quickly because “the government has not met its burden of proof.”
Experts agree legally it was the prudent move to have Manafort not testify. Any statements he made in court could be used against him in future trials – including an upcoming one in Washington, D.C. where he is charged with failing to properly declare himself a foreign lobbyist. That trial is set to begin next month and the prosecutors in that case are among the same prosecutors handling this case in Northern Virginia.
Manafort testifying would also mean allowing prosecutors to cross-examine him which could potentially leave himself open to perjury charges. He would also have to answer questions about voluminous evidence the prosecution has such as emails he’s written and bank records he’s signed which would have proved tricky enough.
Ellis also denied Manafort’s request to dismiss the case on Monday. That request is largely considered procedural as most defense teams file such a motion when the prosecution rests.
Before concluding its case on Monday, the prosecution presented several emails in which Manafort lobbied the Trump campaign to offer the CEO of Federal Savings Bank a cabinet-level post in the Trump administration. Those emails were sent a week after Donald Trump won the election in November 2016. Records show that two weeks prior to Manafort’s solicitations, that bank approved a loan to Manafort of $9.5 million. The bank had lent Manafort $16 million at that point.
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