Lawyers for Paul Manafort painted his turncoat ex-business partner Rick Gates as a liar Wednesday as they tried to convince jurors that prosecutors failed to prove their case.
“He tried to look all clean-shaven … a person you could rely upon,” Manafort attorney Kevin Downing told jurors in his closing arguments, according to a Politico reporter who tweeted the proceeding. “…He fell apart and showed himself to be the liar that he is.”
The defense has attacked the credibility of Manafort’s former right-hand man, who testified that they knowingly committed crimes together. Gates said President Trump’s former campaign chairman ordered him to lie to accountants and on his tax returns.
But Downing pinned the blame squarely on Gates, who testified after cutting a plea deal with the government.
“To the very end, he lied to you,” Downing said, the Washington Post reported. “The government, so desperate to make a case against Mr. Manafort, made a deal with Rick Gates.”
Manafort is charged with evading taxes by hiding millions of dollars in offshore accounts and doctoring financial records in order to score bank loans.
But his lawyers said he worked with a team of accountants, bookkeepers and tax preparers – which wasn’t “consistent” with someone trying to get away with financial fraud.
They heralded Manafort as a talented political consultant who “endeavored to serve,” adding that he worked on campaigns for presidents ranging from Gerald Ford to Trump.
Manafort also didn’t have to commit fraud because money wasn’t an issue for him, the defense argued as records showing his adjusted net worth of $21.3 million at the end of 2016 flashed on jurors’ screens.
“Given this evidence, how can we say he didn’t have money?” lawyer Richard Westling asked.
He told the 12 jurors that Manafort didn’t mount a defense because prosecutors failed to meet their burden of proof.
“If you’re thinking right now any of this evidence adds up to anything, you shouldn’t be,” he said. “Put it out of your mind.”
Westling also suggested prosecutors’ case was weak given the high-ranking witnesses they didn’t call, such as Steve Calk, the CEO of Federal Savings Bank who they said approved a $16 million loan in exchange for a gig with the Trump administration.
“It’s for you to determine what that means,” Westling said.
The lawyer also questioned the motives behind Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution of Manafort – who was charged as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“Nobody came forward to say we’re concerned about what we’re seeing here, not until the special counsel showed up and started asking questions,” Westling said.
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