Manafort's defense rests after calling no witnesses

Manafort in his booking

The defense rested its case Tuesday morning in the trial against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort without calling any witnesses, setting the stage for closing arguments Wednesday morning.

The testimony from James Brennan, a vice president at Federal Savings Bank, represented the capstone to the prosecution's case that has featured 28 witnesses over 10 days here.

Manafort's defense team previewed the case it is expected to launch Tuesday, by blaming the financial irregularities on Gates.

After announcing that they were resting their case, Downing told reporters outside the courthouse that "he did so because he and his legal team believe that the government has not met its burden of proof".

Longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates said he teamed up with his former boss to commit crimes meant to protect Manafort's finances. Prosecutors won Judge T.S. Ellis' permission to call back a financial fraud agent with the enforcement agency FinCEN to speak about Manafort's foreign banking charges.

The prosecution also recalled a Treasury Department agent - over the objections of Manafort's defense team - to testify that two of his companies hadn't filed any reports disclosing the foreign bank accounts as required by federal law.

By that time, according to investigators, the millions of dollars Manafort had been making every year as a political consultant in Ukraine had dried up.

Still, the proceedings have drawn global attention - as well as Trump's - for what the case reveals about people in the combative president's orbit as Mueller examines the same circles for any election interference or obstruction.

Gates, Manafort's right-hand man, was the government's star witness, while Manafort's lawyers have put attacking his credibility at the heart of their defense.

Prosecutors said last week that they would wrap up their case against Mr Manafort on Monday.

James Brennan, a vice president at Federal Savings Bank, which issued two loans worth a total of $16 million, testified Monday that Manafort didn't declare on his applications that he had mortgages on two properties in NY - information that would have made it harder for him to secure a loan. "It closed because Mr. Calk wanted it to close", Brennan said about the loan.

The prosecution also recalled Treasury Department senior special agent Paula Liss, who testified there was no evidence Manafort's companies filed reports with the US government about foreign bank accounts. The trial, which is expected to begin in mid-September, will be tried by some of the same prosecutors handling the current case in Northern Virginia.

Trump has distanced himself from Manafort, who led the campaign from May to August 2016 - with Gates at his side. Gates struck a plea deal with prosecutors and provided much of the drama of the trial so far. The defense also pushed Gates to address allegations that he embezzled "several hundred thousand" dollars from Manafort to finance an apartment in London where Gates had an extra-marital affair.

One of the loans received a rating of four - the lowest possible grade an application could get and still be approved, Brennan said, adding that he would not have approved the loan. Ellis made this clear during his brief conversation with Manafort.

But Calk's dealings with Manafort disclosed during the course of witness testimony and evidence this trial are only the tip of the iceberg, Andres indicated.

The bank lost $11.8 million on the loans and dipped into its reserve pool to cover those losses, Brennan testified Monday to audible "oofs" from the public. Ellis took the motion under advisement.

"The big question is, did the government do enough to show wilfulness", said Wu, who is no longer involved in the case and said he was speaking from knowledge of the publicly available evidence.

The closed hearing came after the judge delayed Manafort's trial for hours last Friday without explanation. The judge left the courtroom that day and later admonished jurors repeatedly to not discuss the case.

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