A lawyer for Paul Manafort on Friday told the judge overseeing the former Trump campaign chairman’s tax fraud case that his client was innocent because a guilty person wouldn’t have left evidence lying around that could convict them.
“Nobody intending to violate the law would leave the evidence around for his accountant to find it,” attorney Kevin Downing said, according to the Washington Post.
Downing was referring to testimony from Manafort’s tax preparer, Phil Ayliff, who claimed earlier in the trial that Manafort had failed to disclose his stakes in several foreign businesses as well as any foreign bank accounts he owned.
According to the Post, Judge T.S. Ellis III summarized that defense strategy himself, repeating back Downing’s claim, saying, “There’s a trail in these documents that would lead to the truth, and somebody who violated the law wouldn’t have done that.”
Paul Manafort's attorney: If he was intending to break the law, why did he leave "evidence around" https://t.co/dMKC7qNzBM
— justin jouvenal (@jjouvenal) August 3, 2018
Manafort was previously indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on several charges, including money laundering, tax fraud, conspiracy against the United States, lying to federal investigators, and failure to register as a foreign agent, in relation to his lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russian oligarchs and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Prosecutors say he and former campaign associate Rick Gates, who was indicted on similar charges, laundered more than $30 million through their work and later falsified loan applications and financial records to obtain other funding when those payments dried up.
Investigators said Manafort hid his wealth by lying about his income on forms sent to him by his tax preparation company.
“Ayliff said his tax preparation firm received several emails from Manafort and Gates that assured the accountants they had no foreign accounts. Ayliff’s firm asked Manafort directly in an email in 2011 if he, his wife or two daughters had foreign accounts,” CNN reported this week. “Manafort said no, according to the email shown to the jury.”
The former campaign chairman is currently on trial for that alleged tax scheme. Prosecutors in court this week revealed the extravagant lifestyle he had paid for with those funds, which included extensive home renovations, several luxury vehicles, and approximately $1.3 million on clothes and suits.
Manafort allegedly paid for many of those purchases using wire transfers.
Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and “Public Enemy Number One,” or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement – although convicted of nothing? Where is the Russian Collusion?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2018
President Trump this week defended Manafort, who chaired the president’s election bid from June through mid-August 2016, comparing his treatment by prosecutors to that of American gangster Al Capone.
“Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and ‘Public Enemy Number One,’ or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement — although convicted of nothing?” he tweeted Wednesday.
The president also questioned the connection between the charges against Manafort and Mueller’s investigation, which more broadly focuses on Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion between Russian figures and members of the Trump campaign, and potential obstruction by the president himself.
“Where is the Russian Collusion?” he tweeted.
Trump’s support for Manafort, however, has waxed and waned over the past year. In October, after Manafort was first indicted, Trump tweeted that the alleged crimes had been committed “years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.” And in June this year, hours before Manafort reported to prison ahead of his trial, Trump told reporters that the former chairman “ha[d] nothing to do with our campaign.”
He added, “You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time. He worked for Ronald Reagan, he worked for Bob Dole, he worked for John McCain, or his firm did. He worked for many other Republicans. He worked for me for what? Forty-nine days or something? A very short period of time.”