Defense Rests Without Calling Any Witnesses. Manafort Will Not Take The Stand In His Own Defense. That Means Only One Thing…
In closing arguments expected this morning, the defense team for Paul Manafort will contend that the government has fallen so far short of making its case that they don’t even need to put up a rebuttal. Manafort’s lawyer has already said that much. In order for that to work, the jury will have to believe the government’s start witness, Manafort’s former business partner Rick Gates is such a complete liar, who is only trying to save his own skin. Also, that all the other evidence and testimony presented against Manafort, from various accountants, bank officers, etc., is not strong enough to stand on its own without Gates’ corroboration.
So what are the chances the jury will see it that way? Impossible to predict. We’ve covered many trials over the years, and even if we were sitting in the courtroom every single day, we found the jury’s view of what was happening was often very different.
Manafort was indicted on a dozen and a half counts of bank and income tax fraud, so a conviction on some, but not all of the charges against him is possible. Of course, by not testifying Manafort also avoids cross-examination by the government. And we’re not arguing that his lawyer’s tactics are a sign of either strength or weakness.
Most of the reporting we’ve seen on Manafort comes close to presenting his guilt as a given, But that doesn’t change the facts that:
- He hasn’t been found guilty yet.
- There’s still a trial going on.
- And anything could still be the result.
So, what if Trump’s former campaign chairman does prevail and is found not guilty on all charges? That would be a huge blow to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, from which he might never recover. We don’t know why Mueller picked the Manafort case to prosecute first, but it’s likely because he and his team felt it was the closest they had to a slam dunk. If it doesn’t play out that way, it could be “game over”.
Why? Even though Trump, his henchmen, and various Republican lackeys have been continually arguing that the Manafort prosecution has nothing to do with collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign, if he’s found not guilty, it’ll all of a sudden be all about that and how Mueller and his team (of “17 angry Democrats”) are completely misguided and off the rails about everything. It might even embolden Trump to fire Mueller with more public support and less fear of opposition from Republicans in Congress than ever.
On the other hand, should Mueller prevail, even if Manafort isn’t convicted on all counts, it’ll almost certainly buy the Special Counsel some time and award him some momentum. No doubt with fusillades of negative Tweets from Trump. And even, and maybe especially, if Trump pardons Manafort.