Fri. 8:27 a.m.: Prosecutors to rest case at Manafort financial fraud trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Prosecutors are expected to rest their case today against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, after days of occasionally dramatic testimony in Manafort’s bank fraud and tax evasion trial and some testy exchanges with the trial judge.

Prosecuting attorneys for special counsel Robert Mueller got a rare, and narrow, acknowledgment from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III that he likely erred when he angrily confronted them a day earlier.

The judge’s comments came Thursday, during the eighth day of trial, as prosecutors began presenting the bulk of their bank fraud case after spending days largely on tax evasion allegations.

Thursday’s testimony was devoid of some of the drama of recent days, when longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates was confronted about having embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and was forced to admit on the witness stand to an extramarital affair.

On Thursday, a group of bank employees told jurors about discrepancies and outright falsehoods contained on Manafort’s loan applications.

Melinda James, a Citizens Bank mortgage loan assistant, testified that Manafort told the bank that a New York City property would be used as a second residence, but she found it listed as a rental on a real estate website. That distinction matters because banks regard loans for rental, or investment, properties as riskier and may impose restrictions, including on how much money they’re willing to lend.

Jurors saw an email from Manafort to his son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, in which he advised him that an appraiser was looking to schedule a visit to the property.

“Remember, he believes that you and Jessica are living there,” Manafort wrote in the email, referencing his daughter.

The prosecution has called more than 20 witnesses, including Gates, and introduced a trove of documentary evidence as they’ve sought to prove Manafort defrauded banks and concealed millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts from the IRS. But along the way they’ve not only faced an aggressive defense team but a combative relationship with Ellis.

The judge has subjected the prosecution to repeated tongue-lashings over the pace of their questioning, their large amount of trial exhibits and even their facial expressions. But on Thursday, Ellis told jurors he went overboard when he erupted at prosecutors a day earlier for allowing an expert witness to remain in the courtroom during the trial.

“Put aside my criticism,” Ellis said, adding, “This robe doesn’t make me anything other than human.”

Neither Manafort nor Gates was charged in connection with their Trump campaign work, but the special counsel continues to investigate Russian election interference and any ties to associates of the president.

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