Manafort chooses not to testify as defense rests case
Paul Manafort’s defense rested its case Tuesday without calling any witnesses in the former Trump campaign chairman’s tax evasion and bank fraud trial. Manafort himself chose not to testify.
The decision not to call witnesses clears the way for the jury to hear closing arguments in the first trial to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Those arguments are scheduled for this morning.
Manafort is accused of hiding millions of dollars in income he received advising Ukrainian politicians. The defense has tried to blame Manafort’s financial mistakes on his former deputy, Rick Gates. Defense attorneys have called Gates a liar, philanderer and embezzler as they’ve sought to undermine his testimony.
Manafort’s decision not to testify and not to call witnesses was announced by his attorney, Kevin Downing, before the jury Tuesday afternoon. Asked by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III whether he wished to testify in his defense, Manafort responded: “No, sir.”
The announcement came after a more than two-hour hearing that was closed to the public. The judge has not given any explanation for the sealed proceeding, only noting that a transcript of it would become public after Manafort’s case concludes.
After announcing that they were resting their case, Downing told reporters outside the courthouse that they did so because they believe “the government has not met its burden of proof.”
Also Tuesday, Ellis rejected a defense motion that the case should be dismissed on those same grounds.