What to Know
- Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is accused of tax evasion and bank fraud unrelated to his work on the campaign
- Manafort was indicted in October along with Rick Gates, now a government witness, in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation
- The case has been closely watched by President Donald Trump as he seeks to publicly undermine Mueller's probe
The jury in the fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort ended its first day of deliberations with a series of questions to the judge, including a request to "redefine" reasonable doubt.
The questions came after roughly seven hours of deliberation, delivered in a handwritten note to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. Ellis read the questions aloud to lawyers for both sides as well as Manafort before he called the jury in to give his answers.
Along with the question on reasonable doubt, the jury asked about the list of exhibits, rules for reporting foreign bank accounts and the definition of "shelf companies," a term used during the trial to describe some of the foreign companies used by Manafort.
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Ellis told the jurors they need to rely on their collective memory of the evidence to answer most questions. As for reasonable doubt, he described it as "a doubt based on reason" and told jurors it does not require proof "beyond all doubt."
The jury concluded deliberations around 5:30 p.m. after receiving Ellis' answers. Deliberations will resume Friday at 9:30 a.m.
Jurors began their deliberations Thursday morning in the case against Manafort, who prosecutors say earned $60 million advising Russia-backed politicians in Ukraine, hid much of it from the IRS and then lied to banks to get loans when the money dried up.
Manafort's defense countered that he wasn't culpable because he left the particulars of his finances to others.
The financial fraud trial calls on the dozen jurors to follow the complexities of foreign bank accounts and shell companies, loan regulations and tax rules. It exposed details about the lavish lifestyle of the onetime political insider, including a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich leather and $900,000 spent at a boutique retailer in New York via international wire transfer.
It's the first courtroom test of the ongoing Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. While allegations of collusion are still being investigated, evidence of bank fraud and tax evasion unearthed during the probe has cast doubt on the integrity of Trump's closest advisers during the campaign.
"When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort's money, it is littered with lies," prosecutor Greg Andres said in his final argument Wednesday, asking the jury to convict Manafort of 18 felony counts.
In his defense, Manafort's attorneys told jurors to question the entirety of the prosecution's case as they sought to tarnish the credibility of Manafort's longtime protege — and government witness — Rick Gates.
The government says Manafort hid at least $16 million in income from the IRS between 2010 and 2014. Prosecutors say Manafort declared only some of his foreign income on his federal income tax returns and repeatedly failed to disclose millions of dollars that streamed into the U.S. to pay for luxury items, services and property.
Gates told jurors he helped conceal millions of dollars in foreign income and submitted fake mortgage and tax documents. He was also forced to admit embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and conducting an extramarital affair.
Manafort was indicted in October along with Gates in Mueller's wide-ranging investigation, but he is the only American charged to opt for a trial instead of cooperating with the government. The remaining 31 individuals charged have either reached plea agreements, including ex-White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. Three Russian companies have also been charged.
The case has been closely watched by President Donald Trump as he seeks to publicly undermine Mueller's probe through a barrage of attacks on Twitter and through his lawyers.