Attorneys for one-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort rested their case Tuesday without calling any witnesses or presenting any further evidence to defend their client, who faces charges of tax evasion and bank fraud that could land him in prison for decades.
Manafort briefly spoke in the courtroom without the jury present, saying he did not wish to testify on his own behalf.
It’s the first time Manafort has been heard in the trial, which is in its third week.
The surprise decision by the defense came after federal prosecutors spent more than two weeks seeking to prove to the jury that Manafort hid money from the IRS and submitted false documents to obtain bank loans.
Manafort’s defense argued the main witness against him, his former aide Richard Gates, is an untrustworthy witness who stole money from Manafort and was involved in extramarital affairs.
Gates was indicted alongside Manafort but pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for testifying against his former boss.
The trial will resume Wednesday morning with closing arguments.
The move by the defense left many wondering if Manafort’s attorneys think they have injected enough doubt into the case to secure a not guilty verdict or if Manafort is planning to make a deal with prosecutors.
“It’s a high-risk strategy,” said Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. “I think at this point the prosecution’s goal or hope has to be that a combination of their cross examination of Gates plus a powerful closing argument can create reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror to get a hung jury.”
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