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Prosecutors Rest Their Case In Trial Of Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort


U.S. prosecutors rested their case today in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Manafort is facing tax and bank fraud charges and could spend the rest of his life in prison if he's convicted. NPR's national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson spent the afternoon in that courtroom in Alexandria, Va. She joins us now. Carrie, hey there.


CORNISH: So the prosecution has called more than two dozen witnesses so far in this trial. Who did we hear from today?

JOHNSON: Yes. Prosecutors rested their case shortly before 5 p.m. after 10 days and 27 witnesses. This afternoon, we heard from James Brennan, a vice president at Federal Savings Bank. Paul Manafort got loans from this bank in 2016 at a time when he had some severe financial trouble. The witness, James Brennan, says there were definite red flags in Manafort's paperwork that, to his mind, raised questions about the character of the borrower.

The witness also said he identified some credit risk issues for Paul Manafort. One was that his past lobbying for foreign governments may be investigated in the future, kind of ironic given where we are now in the federal courthouse.

The witness said that at least one of these loans closed because the bank CEO Steve Calk wanted it to close. Last week, of course, we heard the CEO wanted a big job in the Donald Trump administration, although he did not get one.

CORNISH: What are Manafort's defense attorneys saying about all this?

JOHNSON: Well, Manafort's defense lawyers say the bank didn't really rely on his representations in those loan documents. They say the bank made a lot of its own mistakes in that paperwork, and the banks regulator apparently pointed them out in review.

After the prosecutors rested their case and the jury left, Manafort's lawyers made a motion to dismiss the charges. They're basically arguing, Audie, that the government did not prove that Paul Manafort intentionally violated tax laws and intentionally flouted a requirement to file foreign bank account reports. That's very typical - a normal step in a case like this. The judge has not yet ruled on those motions. We'll find out more about that tomorrow.

CORNISH: Carrie, you've also been reporting that the judge in this trial has essentially become part of the story. Did he say anything notable today?

JOHNSON: Well, Judge T.S. Ellis has been a little subdued for the past few days. The dynamic changed a bit after the government asked him to correct some of his statements in front of the jury last week.

A couple of times today, the judge did go out of his way to remind the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone and to stay away from the news. That's a very important instruction, he said. And the judge told the jury he stayed away from the news all weekend long, and it made his life very pleasant, actually.

CORNISH: So what can we expect next?

JOHNSON: So tomorrow morning, the judge is going to rule on motions by these defense lawyers to throw out the charges. And we're going to find out whether the defense is going to put on any case at all. It's unlikely Paul Manafort himself will testify. We'll find out whether the defense has any expert witnesses or accountants or tax lawyers they want to put on.

Finally, one issue that's looming is still a secret. The court started late on Friday because of an issue that's under seal. There have been motions filed about it, but they're under seal, too. We may find out more at some point. The judge says nothing will remain under seal permanently.

CORNISH: That's NPR's national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thank you.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.