Defense rests in Manafort case, ex-Trump campaign chairman won't testify

The defense for Paul Manafort rested their case Tuesday without calling the ex-Trump campaign chairman to the stand to testify in the bank and tax fraud case against him.

Addressing the court for the first time during his trial, Manafort stood up and told Judge T.S. Ellis III that he did not want to testify.

After two weeks of testimony from prosecution witnesses, until now it had been unclear whether the defense would put forward witnesses or evidence of their own. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team rested their case Monday afternoon.

“We believe the government has failed to meet their burden of proof and we’ve rested on that,” Manafort defense attorney Kevin Downing told reporters outside court.

The trial now heads to closing arguments, set to begin Wednesday morning. Ellis told both sides to limit those arguments to one and a half hours each.


Manafort, 69, is facing tax evasion and bank fraud charges after being accused of hiding income earned from his Ukrainian work from the IRS. He’s also accused of fraudulently obtaining millions in bank loans.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Ellis on Tuesday also ruled against the defense’s motion to acquit. The trial was delayed for two hours Tuesday after the morning proceedings began under seal and were closed to the public and press.

Before the trial adjourned for the day, the court took part in what’s called a charging conference - where the judge and lawyers from both sides discussed what the judge would tell the jury before deliberations.

Ellis, who has not shied from making colorful comments during the trial, signaled that he will tell the jury to disregard any comments he made during witness testimony that might have shown his opinion.

“Do you think I made any comments,” Ellis asked both sides.

After a short silence, prosecutor Greg Andres stood and said, “Yes.” There was audible laughter in the courtroom.

Last week, the prosecution’s star witness, Rick Gates – Manafort’s former business partner who struck a plea deal to cooperate with the government -- testified that he and Manafort committed bank and tax fraud together.

On Monday, James Brennan, the vice president of The Federal Savings Bank, testified under immunity about a loan the bank gave Manafort. According to Brennan, the bank approved $16 million in loans to Manafort by CEO Stephen Calk, who was angling for a cabinet position in the Trump administration.

When asked by prosecutor Greg Andres if he thought the loan should have been approved, Brennan replied, “My recommendation was the loan not be made.”

Brennan said the loan was approved because of Calk. He said the Federal Savings Bank ended up losing $11.8 million on the loan.

The prosecution had been expected to rest on Friday. But Ellis mysteriously delayed testimony in the case for five hours on Friday. The postponement was significant, as prosecutors had been hoping to finish calling witnesses Friday -- and Ellis has a reputation as a stickler for keeping trials moving.

Manafort’s legal troubles won’t end with this trial. He is also facing charges in a separate federal court case in Washington, including conspiring against the United States, conspiring to launder money, failing to register as an agent of a foreign principal and providing false statements.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.