By Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld Undated, Aug 10 : The U.S. judge in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort called a recess on Friday after a long conversation with attorneys for both the government and Manafort, without giving a reason.
The prosecution had been expected to wrap up its case against Manafort on Friday, with jurors expected to hear about his dangling a Trump administration job to the chief executive of a Chicago bank that gave him $16 million in loans.
Manafort, who headed the Trump campaign for several months, faces 18 felony counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose about 30 foreign bank accounts.
T.S. Ellis, the judge overseeing the case, did not say when the court would be back in session. He had previously said he was considering a conference with the lawyers on Friday about instructions to be given to jurors before their deliberations, which are likely to start next week.
Earlier on Friday, the prosecutors submitted a filing to the court asking Ellis to clarify remarks regarding a loan Manafort did not get. The judge on Wednesday questioned why they were focusing on the loan from Citizens Bank that Manafort did not actually receive, saying “you might want to spend time on a loan that was granted.” The government, in its filing, said it wants the judge to explain to the jury that conspiracy to commit fraud is a crime, regardless of whether it is successfully carried out. It is unclear if this was related to the judge’s decision to call a recess.
Ellis surprised observers by apologizing on Thursday for berating prosecutors earlier in the week. He has repeatedly criticized the government’s handling of the case while giving more leeway to Manafort’s attorneys.
Greg Andres, a lawyer on U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, said in court he planned to call the prosecution’s final four witnesses, three of them current or former employees of the Federal Savings Bank.
Four of Manafort’s felony counts involve the $16 million of loans prosecutors say were extended by Federal in late 2016 and early 2017, thanks to a quid pro with its bank’s chief executive, Stephen Calk.
Federal and Calk, who was named an economic adviser to the Trump campaign in August 2016, did not respond to requests for comment.
Manafort emailed his longtime associate, Rick Gates, in late 2016 asking for the incoming Trump administration to consider tapping Calk for secretary of the Army, Gates testified this week.
Gates, the deputy chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, who also worked on his campaign, was indicted along with Manafort, but pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
James Brennan, a vice president at Federal, and Dennis Raico, a former executive, are set to testify on Friday, Andres said. Both Brennan and Raico were granted immunity against prosecution before testifying.
Andrew Chojnowski, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as chief operating officer of home lending at Federal, is also on the witness list.
In addition, prosecutors are expected to call Irfan Kirimca, senior director of ticket operations at the Yankees, to testify about payments for Manafort’s season tickets for the baseball team.
On the stand this week, Gates said Manafort asked if he would “do him a favor” and sign a letter that attributed the cost of the tickets to him. The box seats cost between $210,000 to $225,000 a year, Gates said.
Manafort was applying for loans at the time and witnesses have testified that he tried to represent lower debt and higher income in order to get loans.