Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.
The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We’ll have live updates from the courtroom throughout the day.
3:23 p.m.: Prosecutors get to bank fraud, show Rick Gates inflating firm income by $4 million
Prosecutors have now gotten to the meat of the bank fraud charges against Paul Manafort. They showed Rick Gates sent financial documents to two banks indicating Davis Manafort Partners made $4.5 million in 2015.
Bookkeeper Heather Washkuhn testified that was “four million more than what was reported on the documents that we created.” Her firm recorded the company making about $400,000 that year.
Prosecutors showed jurors several emails that seem to show an effort to inflate income.
In messages early in the morning on March 16, 2016, Gates asks Washkuhn to send him a Word document version of the previous year’s financial records, rather than a scanned pdf. Washkuhn replies that’s impossible. He then asks for the pdf that comes out of her bookkeeping system because the scanned pdf is “slanted and not completely clear.” Washkuhn replies that she can’t do that either; the system prints out a document and she can only scan it or send it by regular mail.
“It sounds like old technology,” Gates replies.
Gates then asks her to add $2.6 million in “accrued revenue” for 2015, something he said in a previous email Manafort had requested. She says she cannot; the firm operates on a cash basis, recording money when it comes in rather than when it is earned.
Gates then emails another employee at the bookkeeping firm, Laura Tanner, and, “per email with Heather,” she should add the $2.6 million to the 2015 income.
It’s unclear what Tanner did. But prosecutors showed jurors an attachment Gates sent to Banc of California. “It is similar in some respects” to the DMP financial statement prepared by the bookkeeping firm, Washkuhn testified, but she said the disclaimer was missing, the font was different, and “the numbers are different.”
2:55 p.m. Bookkeeper says she pleaded with Manafort for money to pay bills
Bookkeeper Heather Washkuhn continued her testimony by detailing how Davis Manafort Partners’ financial meltdown began to take a toll on Paul Manafort personally. He had made a nearly $2 million salary a handful of years earlier doing political consulting in Ukraine, but by 2016, Manafort’s patron, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, had fled his homeland and could no longer pay Manafort.
And Washkuhn testified she was sending a series of desperate e-mails to Manafort, seeking payment for a laundry list of Manafort’s personal bills. A tally from early 2016 showed Manafort owed more than $1.1 million to pay off credit cards and other expenses from lavish spending.
“$120K is urgently needed for your personal bills,” Washkuhn wrote to Manafort in an e-mail that was shown to the jury.
In another e-mail from January 2016, Washkuhn wrote to Manafort that taxes were due that day on a New York City property he owned.
Davis Manafort Partners was also struggling to pay its bills. In an email to Rick Gates in April 2016, Washkuhn wrote the firm’s medical insurance was going to be cancelled because the bill hadn’t been paid. She said to send money “ASAP.”
2:19 p.m.: Manafort’s consulting firm reported a $1.2 million loss in 2016
Back on the stand after lunch, Heather Washkuhn continued to go through the financial documents she prepared when she was his bookkeeper.
The documents show that in 2015, the finances for the firm Davis Manafort Partners went off a cliff.
Having taken in millions for years — in 2012 Manafort reported paying himself a nearly $2 million salary — the firm reported only $400,744 in income in 2015 and a $1.2 million loss in 2016.
As Manafort was running Donald Trump’s campaign without pay, according to the records, his firm was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. That testimony is important because prosecutors have said that after Manafort’s work in Ukraine ended, he grew desperate to for money to support his lavish lifestyle, and that is what drove him to commit bank fraud.
With her testimony, Washkuhn continued to cast doubt on the reliability of the financial records, again saying she was unaware that Manafort controlled companies that were paying the firm or loaning the firm money.
She said one such loan, a $1.5 million line of credit from Peranova Holdings Limited in 2015, was reclassified as income at the direction of Manafort deputy Rick Gates. That could possibly bolster Manafort’s defense, as it shows Gates involvement in the finances.
In Washkuhn’s books, Gates’s annual income from DMP is recorded as $240,000, although he has admitted to hiding substantial income in foreign accounts.
The financial documents do not show DMP paying any taxes in Cyprus between 2011 and 2016.
This item has been updated to correct the amount of money Davis Manafort Partners reported in 2015.
1:36 p.m.: In other Mueller news: Aide to Trump-confidant Roger Stone ordered to appear before Mueller grand jury
We mentioned earlier that a federal judge had confirmed the legal legitimacy of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment, and ordered a witness who had been challenging it to appear before the grand jury. The Post’s Ann Marimow and Manuel Roig-Franzia now have a more complete account of what happened:
A former aide to longtime President Trump confidant Roger Stone must testify before the special counsel’s grand jury, a federal judge in Washington ruled Thursday.
The judge rejected a challenge from Andrew Miller, a former assistant to Stone, who tried to block subpoenas from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The redacted opinion from Chief Judge Beryl Howell does not identify Miller by name, but his attorney confirmed that the ruling is in response to Miller’s request.
Howell’s ruling orders Miller to “appear before the grand jury to provide testimony at the earliest date available” and to provide the subpoenaed records.
“We’re disappointed with the court’s ruling,” Miller’s attorney Paul Kamenar said in an interview. “But the judge obviously took our challenge to Mueller’s constitutionality seriously as evidenced by the 93-page opinion.”
You can read their full report here.
We don’t know their names. We don’t know what they do. We don’t know where they live. The only thing we know for sure about the jury at the Paul Manafort trial is that they will be celebrating a birthday on Friday.
The jury sent an unusual request to Judge T.S. Ellis III to bring a birthday cake into the courthouse, presumably for one of the juror’s birthdays. After lunch on Wednesday, Ellis gave his approval.
“You may indeed bring in birthday cake for Friday,” said the 78-year-old judge. “I quit having birthdays years ago.”
The moment drew laughs in the courtroom and revealed that the jury is perhaps having a bit of fun and bonding, despite the gravity of the case and the glare of the national spotlight.
The jury remains a mystery because almost no information emerged about the panel that was selected. A number of jurors described their professions and social connections in response to questions from Ellis asking if they had links to the Justice Department, the defense team and others connected to the case.
But the six men and six women who were selected for the jury, as well as the four alternates, were not among those who raised in their hands and spoke.
Another factor is that Ellis did not take a step sometimes taken by judges soon after the jury is selected: having a clerk rattle off the jurors’ names and juror numbers.
Some readers also have asked about the race of the jury. That’s a question we can’t answer. Each juror’s self-described race is not among the limited bits of information that are collected or made public.
12:41 p.m.: Trial breaks for lunch, two more hours of bookkeeper testimony expected
Heather Washkuhn, who prepared ledgers of Manafort’s finances, testified that she was specifically unaware that Manfort controlled firms in Cyprus that loaned him money or gave him payments, including a $2 million loan from Yiakora Ventures in 2011. She said she would have asked for documentation on that kind of loan but did not recall getting it.
Likewise, she said she did not know if Manafort controlled Leviathan Advisors, which paid him and his wife over $2 million that same year.
Before breaking for lunch, Judge T.S. Ellis III asked prosecutor Greg Andres how much longer he expected Washkuhn’s testimony to take. Andres estimated another two hours.
Ellis asked him to try to trim that a bit, and Andres replied that he would. But he noted that Washkuhn’s testimony was at the heart of the prosecution’s case.
“Ms. Washkuhn plays a relevant role in the bank fraud,” as well as the alleged tax fraud, Andres said. “Not to say she was involved, she wasn’t.” But, he said, she had key knowledge.
12:36 p.m: Bookkeeper testifies she did not know of Manafort’s offshore accounts
The vendors ended their testimony about Manafort’s lavish spending and the prosecution shifted to the heart of its case by putting Manafort’s bookkeeper on the stand to detail his finances.
Heather Washkuhn, managing director at California-based Nigro Karlin Segal Feldstein & Bolno, testified she had access to Manafort’s personal and business bank accounts, managed his spending and also oversaw several of his properties, including a horse farm in Virginia, condos in New York City and a property in Florida.
Washkuhn described Manafort as an engaged client during the seven years she worked with him, from 2011 to 2018.
“He was very knowledgeable,” Washkuhn told the jury. “He was very detail oriented. He approved every penny of everything we paid.”
The testimony is important because Manafort’s defense team hopes to rebut allegations of Manafort’s financial wrongdoing by portraying him as the victim of his partner in his political consulting firm. One of Manafort’s attorneys argued in his opening statement that Richard Gates controlled Manafort’s business finances and manipulated his boss to line his own pockets. He portrayed Manafort as so busy with his political consulting work in Ukraine and elsewhere, he didn’t have time to manage his business affairs.
Washkuhn testified she prepared ledgers each year of Manafort’s financial activities, which she then handed off to his accountants to prepare his tax returns. Washkuhn told the jury she sometimes saw activity in those accounts from other accounts to which she did not have access. She would request documents from Manafort on those accounts but only received them “sometimes.”
Critically, Washkuhn also testified she was unaware of and did not have any records of foreign holdings or accounts controlled by Manafort. That’s important because prosecutors allege Manafort hid income in accounts offshore in places such as Cyprus and used them to make loans to himself and pay vendors as a tax-avoidance scheme.
12:05 p.m.: Prosecutors provide details on more spending
After a parade of witnesses testified about Paul Manafort’s flamboyant spending and tendency to pay with international wire transfers, prosecutors entered several pieces of evidence to bolster those accounts.
Prosecutors told jurors that companies in Cyprus paid a $300,000 down payment on a townhouse in Brooklyn; $503,500 to Scott L. Wilson Landscaping & Tree Specialists for work on Manafort’s Hamptons home; $20,339 to Sensoryphile, Inc. for a video and karaoke system at the same house; and about $430,000 to Sabatello Construction to renovate his home in Palm Beach, Fla. Defense attorneys did not contest that evidence.
The defense also agreed that Manafort and his wife paid $2.85 million for a condo in Manhattan’s Chinatown through the U.S.-based company MC Soho Holdings, LLC.
11:59 a.m.: Judge confirms lawfulness of special counsel’s appointment
With Manafort’s trial pressing forward, a federal judge in D.C. on Thursday affirmed the legal legitimacy of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment.
In a 93-page opinion, Judge Beryl A. Howell wrote that Mueller’s power “falls well within the boundaries the Constitution permits,” because he was supervised by an official who was himself accountable to the president. She wrote that “multiple statutes” authorized Mueller’s appointment, and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who named him to the post, “had power to do so.”
The opinion came in response to a legal challenge from a witness who was arguing he could not be compelled to testify before a grand jury. The witness argued that Mueller wielded too much power and was appointed unlawfully. In the witness’s view, Mueller should have been nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, and there was no statute giving Rosenstein the authority to appoint him.
The witness was not named, though his attorney told The Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia it was Andrew Miller, an associate of political operative and Trump adviser Roger Stone.
The ruling from Howell won’t have any direct bearing on Manafort’s case. Manafort himself had sought to challenge Mueller’s authority in the case against him in D.C. — though he abandoned part of that, and a judge rejected his request to stop Mueller from bringing charges against him in the future. Judge T.S. Ellis III also earlier rejected an effort by Manafortto get the charges against him in Virginia thrown out.
The prosecution has called a parade of vendors to try to establish Paul Manafort’s extravagant spending habits and that he paid for the luxury items from offshore accounts, mainly in Cyprus. But few have offered detail of just how lavish was that lifestyle was as a landscaper called Thursday morning.
Michael Regolizio, the owner of New Leaf Landscaping in the Hamptons, testified that he performed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work on one of Manafort’s homes in Bridgehampton, N.Y., over seven years.
Regolizio told the jury that he maintained 14-foot hedges around the roughly 1-acre property, lawns, a waterfall, flower-lined tennis courts, a bed of “hundreds and hundreds” of white flowers and another which had red flowers in the shape of the letter “M,” presumably for Manafort.
“There was a crew on that property four or five times a week easily,” Regolizio testified.
As Regolizio talked at length about the many flowers he planted and maintained on Manafort’s property, prosecutor Brandon Van Grack cut him off, saying jurors had heard enough.
“I like to talk about my work,” Regolizio said, smiling.
Regolizio told the jury most of his customers paid by credit card, but Manafort paid with wire transfers. He said only one other of his clients paid with wire transfers and those transfers were from within the United States. Manafort spent a total of about $450,000 on the landscaping and the money originated from accounts in Cyprus.
Regolizio also testified about what he agreed was a “fake invoice” from his company.
The document did not have the full name, logo and address and the seal was faint, he testified. Prosecutors have asked several witnesses to testify about apparently fake invoices, though the significance is not yet clear.
Up next is Heather Washkuhn, who worked as Manafort’s bookkeeper.
10:26 a.m.: A ‘top-five’ client: Manafort spent more than $2 million in five years on home TV and internet set-up, witness says
Joel Maxwell, the chief operating officer of Florida-based home automation and technology company Big Picture Solutions, said he helped set up television and Internet access at homes Manafort owned up and down the East Coast.
Between 2011 and 2014, Maxwell said Manafort spent $2.2 million with his company. He was a “top five” client, Maxwell said.
Like witnesses who testified Wednesday, Maxwell said Manafort paid him through international wire transfers. He said he had two or three other clients who did the same.
Maxwell also said he sometimes dealt with Richard Gates, Manafort’s deputy, on billing issues for Manafort, but that he had never met Gates. Manafort, he said, was always the client. That is a blow to defense attorneys assertion that Gates, rather than Manafort, is to blame for the fraud, as it shows Manafort was spending his own money.
And like two other vendors, Maxwell testified that before trial he had been shown a fake invoice from his company to Global Endeavour Inc., a Cypriot entity Manafort had used to pay some of his bills.
It’s “kind of” an invoice from Big Picture Solutions, Maxwell said. But it wrongly described the business as an LLC, the address was wrong, and there was none of the detail that their invoices typically include on what services were provided. Global Endeavour Inc., Maxwell said, was not a client of his.
Prosecutors have yet to explain the meaning of these false invoices to jurors.
Prosecutor Greg Andres said Thursday he plans to call Paul Manafort’s business partner, Richard Gates, as a witness in the trial.
“We have absolutely put him on the witness list,” Andres told Judge T.S. Ellis III Thursday morning. “We have every intention to call him as a witness.”
The announcement comes one day after Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye caught Ellis off guard when he told the judge that Gates “may testify in this case, he may not.” He said prosecutors were interested in shortening the trial and would make the decision to call him based on how the evidence unfolded. Before that, Gates was expected to be prosecutors’ star witness.
Gates had been charged in the same indictment as Manafort. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy and lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Manafort’s defense also has made him a focal point of their strategy, accusing him of embezzling from Manafort and committing fraud to cover his own tracks.
9:53 a.m.: Judge addresses evidence of luxury goods, and jabs at special counsel team
Judge T.S. Ellis III opened court Thursday by addressing a prosecution brief that argued the importance of Manafort’s luxury spending to their case — though he did not offer definitive guidance about how much of that type of evidence they will be allowed to enter.
The government is “allowed to introduce amounts of money he had,” Ellis said. “What I have not permitted is to gild the lily.”
He noted in particular that it was irrelevant what Manafort spent his money on.
“It wouldn’t matter if he spent the money on Men’s Wearhouse clothes,” he said, adding that some luxury items might color jurors against Manafort.
“All the evidence of the fancy suits really is irrelevant and besmirches the defendant,” he said. “Most of us don’t have designer suits, we don’t have pagodas … it engenders some resentment.”
Ellis appeared to be referring to the pergola, a sort-of wooden trellis that typically creates shade, that a witness testified Wednesday he built for Manafort’s daughter.
Ellis said that if the defense argued that Manafort did not spend the money, the government could go into more detail in a rebuttal case, though he said he doubted that would happen. He said jurors will presumably soon learn that Manafort did not pay taxes on the income, which, in his view, is the relevant issue.
The judge then jabbed at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team of prosecutors, saying “I might have started there had I been the government, but that’s your choice.”
9:30 a.m.: Will Richard Gates testify? Almost certainly, former federal prosecutor says
A prosecutor suggested Wednesday that Richard Gates, Paul Manafort’s former business partner who pleaded guilty in the case, might not testify. The comment stunned those in the courtroom who had expected Gates to be a star witness.
But a former prosecutor from the Eastern District of Virginia said he would not read too much into the remark.
“I would be shocked if they didn’t” call Gates, said Timothy Belevetz, who is now a partner at the firm Holland & Knight. “If you’ve got a witness who’s really going to be testifying about something that no one else will — transactions, conversations, emails that no one else can put into context — you’re going to want that person to testify.”
Belevetz said that Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye’s comment should be understood in context: he was being challenged on the need to enter a piece of evidence that another witness would testify about later. Belevetz said Asonye did what any prosecutor would in “preserving his options.”
“What’s he going to say? ‘You’re right, your honor, I’ll discontinue this line of questioning?’” Belevetz said.
Belevetz said there’s no reason to believe defense attorneys’ plan to put all blame on Gates would have any impact on prosecutors.
“That’s of course what the defense would do,” he said. “That’s criminal defense 101.”
Belevetz also said he did not think the judge’s aggressive interventions to limit evidence of Manafort’s lavish spending would rattle prosecutors.
“I think the government’s going to ultimately able to go back and fix any damage that’s been created here,” he said. They will do so, he said, by telling jurors, “it doesn’t much matter what you spend the money [on] that you acquired by cheating on your taxes. So let’s focus on these false income tax statements, let’s focus on the false mortgage applications.”
Judge T.S. Ellis III is known for taking lawyers to task, although he tends to be tougher on defense attorneys than prosecutors during trials.
“His general reputation is that while he’s harder than most judges are on the parties … at the end of the day he’s usually harder on the defense,” Belevetz said. “This may be a bit out of character in terms of the way he typically interfaces with the government. But this is a high profile case and Judge Ellis has always been interested in running a clean and efficient trial, and I think that’s what we were seeing here.”
9:20 a.m.: Pictures of Manafort’s extravagant clothes are made public, as prosecutors press for more evidence of luxurious lifestyle
The special counsel’s office late Wednesday released to the public a collection of photographs showing the colorful, high-end suits prosecutors say Paul Manafort bought using money in foreign bank accounts. Those are presumably admitted pieces of evidence that jurors will be allowed to see. But there still seems to be debate about just how much they will be allowed to show jurors in court, and whether they can enter even more photographs to bolster their case.
On Thursday morning, the special counsel’s office filed a motion in court asking Judge T.S. Ellis III for an “opportunity to further explain why such evidence is directly relevant to the elements of the charged offenses and its probative value is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.” Ellis had repeatedly admonished prosecutors not to dwell on Manafort’s luxurious lifestyle and blocked them from showing jurors pictures and other documents in court.
The special counsel’s office argued in the Thursday morning court filing that type of evidence was “directly relevant” to the crimes of which Manafort is accused, because it shows that Manafort acted “willfully,” and the money used to pay for the items “came directly from the unreported foreign bank accounts where Manafort deposited his foreign consulting income.”
Prosecutors also argued that the luxurious nature of the purchases was important because it helped inform their narrative of the case. That Manafort “had an expensive lifestyle that required lots of money to maintain is important proof as to why he would commit the bank frauds,” prosecutors wrote. They wrote that they intend to show Manafort “had grown accustomed to his material wealth,” and when his income declined in 2014, “he resorted to bank fraud as a means to maintain his lifestyle.”
Prosecutors wrote that asking witnesses about the documents, without showing them to jurors, “could expose the government to appellate risk.”
The evidence the special counsel’s office made public is itself notable. Along with the pictures of the suits themselves, prosecutors released invoices showing Manafort bought a $15,000 ostrich jacket, as well as $9,500 ostrich vest and an $18,500 jacket made of python skin.
They also released a handwritten list of Manafort’s auto insurance contacts, showing that in addition to a Mercedes and a Land Rover he had a Chrysler Town & Country and an Aston Martin. They released a copy of Manafort’s passport, with stamps showing many visits to Ukraine.
And they released memos on his finances, including one to Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych’s chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkin, in April 2013 that prosecutors were repeatedly blocked from showing in court. Manafort was asking the chief of staff for $4.4 million.
“My exposure is considerably more than the amount due now. It is over $5,000,000. I am really hurting. I cannot carry this big of a load. It is hurting me and my family,” Manafort wrote. In two months, he said, he would need to pay members of the so-called “Hapsburg Group” — a group of European ex-politicians prosecutors say were hired to lobby secretly on Ukraine — as well as other consultants. “That is why I need the old money now. I cannot carry this much, never mind even more,” he said. “This is why a partial payment won’t work now. It could have worked 3 months ago when it was originally supposed to be paid because I was not out of pocket so much. Now, however, I am at a personal breaking point.”
In another email exchange, Manafort apologizes to suitmaker Alan Katzman for a late payment of $81,500.
“It puts a tremendous strain on us,” Katzman said of Manafort’s unpaid bills.
“I apologize for the delays but there is nothing I can do,” Manafort writes. “The international banking situation has been chaotic for the last 4 months with no signs of changing.”
Depending on what Ellis decides, it is possible prosecutors could enter even more evidence, including pictures of Manafort’s home renovations. They also might be allowed to show what they have already released publicly to jurors in court.
9 a.m.: What to expect on Day 3 of the Manafort trial
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have now questioned nine witnesses, laying out for jurors how President Trump’s former campaign chairman paid for his luxurious lifestyle via wire transfers from foreign bank accounts. Sometimes at the irritation of the judge, clothiers have described Manafort’s expensive taste in suits, and home renovators have described the work they did to improve property owned by Manafort and his family.
So what will Day 3 bring?
Prosecutors say they first intend to question a few more vendors who can describe purchases Manafort made. That testimony is important not just because it demonstrates Manafort’s wealth, but it connects him to the vast amounts of money that flowed through foreign bank accounts and – by prosecutors’ account – was not properly reported and taxed.
Next, prosecutors say they will call to the witness stand bookkeepers and tax accountants, who can speak in detail about Manafort’s finances and what he paid to the government. That testimony will be key to showing Manafort’s involvement in what prosecutors say amounted to fraud, but Manafort largely blames that fraud on his former deputy, Richard Gates.
It remains to be seen whether and when Gates will testify. A prosecutor suggested Wednesday that it was not a foregone conclusion that Gates would take the stand, as the government speeds to finish its case next week. But Gates, who was charged in the same indictment as Manafort and later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, would seem too crucial a witness not to call. If prosecutors are to be believed, he could speak directly to the wrongdoing Manafort committed. That is because, according to prosecutors, he was a part of it.
Testimony resumes at 9:30 a.m.