Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was back in court on Wednesday, in Alexandria, Virginia, as his criminal case entered its second day we find, a banned word, a Judge that doesn’t mince words, prosecutors that believe they will be able to rest their case as early as next week, and our first mention of President Trump.
Highlights provided by Politico
Wednesday found Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors calling on eight witnesses, vendors who provided goods or services to Manafort and received payment from “obscure companies,” from places like Cyprus or the Grenadines.
Prosecutors believe that “in order to get Manafort’s bills paid, someone repeatedly forged invoices.” The prosecutors allege that real bills were at some point converted to the forged document and then “directed to various shell companies,” which were allegedly controlled by Manafort.
One witness Maximillian Katzman a former manager for a New York based high-end men’s clothing store, Alan Couture, testified that the invoice presented to Katzman and the jurors was indeed fake, noting that the spelling of the men’s clothing store, Alan Corture LLC, was “off by a letter,” Katzman also pointed out the “zip code was incorrect.”
Home improvement contractor, Stephen Jacobsen, who renovated Manafort’s Trump Tower apartment among other properties, billed Manfort for $3.3 million dollars worth of work, told jurors that sometimes the payment he received varied to the billed amount, “If a bill had an odd number on it, I would get an even number.”
Jacobsen also testified that his firm’s bank account was closed abruptly, “I asked him if the closing had to do with the wire transfers. He told me, ‘Don’t worry about it.'” Jacobsen was also presented with a forged invoice, he told jurors when presented with a bill for $130,000 that it was not “a bill from my company. I see a faint imprint on it of my company logo.”
Aside from the vendors that testified, Wednesday also found FBI agent Matthew Mikuska testifying to what occurred on the day they presented a search warrant to Manafort, at his condo in Virginia.
Mikuska an eleven year FBI veteran and special agent, told the court, that fourteen agents arrived at the residence, knocked, identified themselves as the FBI and explained they had a search warrant, before shortly after six am, they entered the residence, after no response, with a key fob, that Mikuska, is not sure how they obtained. Mikuska also told jurors that Manafort “did not appear to be making an effort to hide anything,” as the FBI agents gathered evidence.
District Court Judge T.S. Ellis
Judge Ellis ended Wednesday’s trial by explaining he’d hope they could finish the case sooner than the three-week estimated length, “I’m hopeful we can finish this case much, much sooner than anyone expected.”
Before the Jurors were brought into the courtroom, Judge Ellis argued against the use of the word, “oligarchs,” which in Russia means “very rich businessman with a great deal of political power.”
Judge Ellis stated in regards to the use of the word, “Oligarchy is just despotic power exercised by a privileged few, Principals of high schools are oligarchs in that sense. What I want to avoid … is how you use the term oligarch to mean he was consulting and being paid by people [who] are criminals. Of course, there will be no evidence about that.”
The prosecution objected on the basis that “We don’t call American Businessmen oligarchs. Ukrainian businessmen are referred to as oligarchs. Those are the facts.” Judge Ellis ultimately decided to allow prosecutors to submit a brief on the issue.
Other noteworthy developments
— The Hill (@thehill) August 1, 2018
Judge Ellis told lawyers from both sides to “rein in their facial expressions,” telling them that it was “inappropriate,” for them to leave the bench and roll their eyes which according to Ellis might be taken as the lawyers wondering, “Why do we have to deal with this idiot judge?”
Prosecutor Uzo Asonye caused a courtroom clearing of media outlets when he suggested that Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s former partner, who took a plea deal, and who the defense team suggests embezzled money without Manafort’s knowledge, might not testify, “He may testify in this case, your honor, he may not.”
The trial continues Thursday, The Washington Post explains more vendor testimony is expected along with Manafort’s bookkeepers and accountants. Proceedings resume at 9:30 a.m. eastern time.