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Manafort Jury to Resume Deliberations Monday

Manafort Jury to Resume Deliberations Monday
(Getty Images)

Friday, 17 August 2018 06:05 PM

President Donald Trump defended former campaign chief Paul Manafort as a "very good person" on Friday as jurors wrapped up a second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in his explosive trial for tax evasion and bank fraud.

The six-man, six-woman jury weighing the 18 charges against the once high-flying Republican political consultant are to resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.

Manafort, 69, is accused of providing fraudulent statements to secure bank loans and failing to pay taxes on tens of millions of dollars he earned while advising Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine between 2006 and 2015.

The jury met for seven hours on Thursday and for another seven hours on Friday before retiring for the weekend.

Asked whether he thought the fact the jury needed more time was a good sign for the defense, Manafort's lead attorney Kevin Downing told reporters: "I do."

On Friday, Judge T.S. Ellis revealed that he had received unspecified "threats" and was under the protection of US Marshals.

Citing their "peace and safety," he also declined a request by a group of media outlets to release the names of the jurors hearing the case in Alexandria, Virginia.

"To do so would create a risk of harm to them," the judge said. "It's important to keep their names confidential."

"I had no idea this case would excite these emotions," Ellis added.

The case stems from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election -- and possible collusion between the Trump campaign team and Moscow.

Trump again denounced the Mueller probe on Friday, calling it a "witch hunt," and -- in an extraordinary commentary by a sitting president about an ongoing trial -- weighed in on the Manafort case.

Asked if he would pardon his former campaign chief if he is convicted of the charges which could send him to prison for the rest of his life, Trump declined to comment.

But he went on to say: "I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad.

"When you look at what's going on there, I think it's a very sad day for our country," he said.

"He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what? He happens to be a very good person," Trump said.

"I think it's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort."

Manafort is not charged with any crimes related to his brief time as Trump's campaign chairman, but the trial is seen as an important test for the Mueller probe.

Trump has stepped up his attacks on the investigation and his denials that there was any collusion with Russian entities to try to sway the election in his favor.

A Manafort acquittal would provide ammunition to the president and his allies to ramp up the pressure on Mueller to conclude his investigation.

The case went to the jury on Thursday after 12 days of gripping testimony about hidden bank accounts, betrayal and lavish spending by Manafort on luxury homes, cars, antique rugs and clothes including an $18,500 python jacket.

Prosecutors outlined schemes allegedly used by Manafort to avoid paying US taxes on the millions of dollars he earned in Ukraine and then deposited in bank accounts in Cyprus.

Manafort also filed false statements to obtain millions of dollars in loans from banks when his Ukraine consulting fees dried up, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorneys sought for their part to cast doubt on the credibility of the prosecution's star witness, Manafort's former trusted deputy, Rick Gates, who took a deal from the government and turned against his former boss.

During his testimony, Gates, 46, acknowledged stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and having an extramarital affair.

While Gates and several others indicted by Mueller have pleaded guilty, Manafort refused to cut a deal and insisted on having his day in court.

Manafort, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Republicans Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, was Trump's campaign chairman from May to August 2016.

He was forced to step down amid questions about his work for Ukraine's former pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych and legal experts say he may be holding out hopes of a pardon from Trump.

© AFP 2019

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President Donald Trump defended former campaign chief Paul Manafort as a "very good person" on Friday as jurors wrapped up a second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in his explosive trial for tax evasion and bank fraud.The six-man, six-woman jury weighing the...
crime, politics, manafort, trial
Friday, 17 August 2018 06:05 PM
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