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Ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort 'lied' and 'lied' for money, Mueller prosecutor argues

Key Points
  • Former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort "lied" and "lied" and "lied" again to avoid paying taxes, a prosecutor told jurors as closing arguments began Wednesday in Manafort's federal trial.
  • Manafort earned tens of millions of dollars working for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller prosecuted Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates as part of an ongoing probe of officials on the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
President Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort departs U.S. District Court after a motions hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, May 4, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort "lied" and "lied" and "lied" again to avoid paying taxes on money he earned overseas and to get even more money when that income stream ran dry, a prosecutor told jurors as closing arguments began Wednesday in Manafort's federal trial.

"Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it and lied to get more money when he didn't," Greg Andres, a member of special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecution team, said in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, according to NBC News.

In fact, the prosecutor said, the case is all about "Mr. Manafort and his lies."

"When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort's money, it's littered with lies," Andres said in his pitch to jurors. "Mr. Manafort is not above the law."

Manafort's defense lawyer Kevin Downing, in his closing statement, attacked the testimony of Manafort's former business associate Rick Gates, who has cut a plea deal with Mueller's team. Downing said Gates stole several million dollars from Manafort to fund a lifestuly that included a London apartment to meet his mistress.

He said Gates had lied to jurors.

Another defense lawyer, Richard Westling, in his own argument to jurors, tried to focus them on the claim that prosecutors had failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Manafort was guilty of the crimes with which he is charges.

"Your job is to ensure the burden is met," said Westling.

He showed the jurors a chart of a scale ranging from proven not guilty to guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

"It's not enough to think someone is probably guilty or likely guilty," Westling said.

"Hold the government to its burden, ladies and gentlement." 

Jurors could begin deliberating Manafort's fate soon afterward the same day.

A longtime Republican consultant and lobbyist, Manafort, 69, is accused of hiding from the IRS tens of millions of dollars he earned working for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

"In total, Mr. Manafort failed to pay taxes on more than $15 million," Andres said.

Prosecutors say that when that work ended, after the party lost power, Manafort sought to continue paying for his pricey lifestyle by lying to American banks to obtain loans.

But Westling argued Wednesday that none of the banks that Manafort is charged with defrauding ever complained about him to authorities.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty in the case, which is the first of two against him brought by Mueller to go to trial. He is set to be tried on related charges in Washington, D.C., federal court this fall.

Defense lawyers rested their case Tuesday without calling any witnesses to testify on Manafort's behalf and after introducing just 12 exhibits into evidence.

In contrast, prosecutors called 27 witnesses to testify, among them his fellow senior official on the Trump campaign, Gates, who earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements.

Prosecutors also submitted more than 360 exhibits in the case.

Mueller lodged charges against Manafort and Gates after being appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by members of the Trump campaign in that meddling.

However, the charges against both men do not relate to their actions on that campaign, which sent President Donald Trump to the White House.

Trump has repeatedly called for an end to Mueller's ongoing probe, calling it a "Witch Hunt."

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.