Jury Finds Paul Manafort Guilty On 8 Of 18 Charges

Aug 21, 2018
Originally published on August 21, 2018 9:50 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Two of the nation's most closely watched legal cases are at pivotal moments today. President Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to charges including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Those violations are related to payments made to buy the silence of women who say they had affairs with the president.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And the other major development - a jury has reached a guilty verdict on eight of the 18 counts against Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman. We're going to go first to Alexandria, Va., at the federal courtroom where the Manafort trial has been taking place. NPR's Ryan Lucas is there. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hello there.

CHANG: So Manafort was charged on 18 counts - he was charged with 18 counts. Can you just walk us through this verdict? What exactly has he been convicted of?

LUCAS: Well, the jury deliberated for around four days. He was found guilty - Manafort was - on eight counts - five counts of filing false tax returns. That's for the years 2010 through 2014. He was also found guilty on one count of failing to declare a foreign bank account. And then the last two counts that he was found guilty of were counts of bank fraud.

CHANG: OK. What about the remaining ten counts?

LUCAS: Well, on the other 10 counts, Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial. This is after the jury was unable to come to a consensus on those counts. Now, three of those counts were for failing to report foreign bank accounts. And then there were several counts of bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy. Now, we knew that the jury was having trouble coming to agreement on at least some of the charges. They had sent out a note earlier in the day, around 11 in the morning, asking, what should they do if they can't come to a consensus on a specific count? The judge instructed them to return to try to come to some sort of consensus, unanimity if they can. The jury came out around four or five hours later, saying that they had reached a verdict on those eight counts. But on the other 10 - they just weren't able to come to an agreement on those.

CHANG: And how unusual is this - to have a split like this on so many charges?

LUCAS: Well, this happens particularly in cases as complicated as this. It's not unusual when you have a number of counts. And remember, in this case, there are 18 counts in total. And these are complicated charges. You have bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, you know, tax returns. Tax returns are complicated. All of this is stuff that, when you hand it to a jury, they're not necessarily going to come to agreement on. So it's not unheard of for something like this to happen.

CHANG: And explain what a mistrial will mean. Like, can federal prosecutors bring a case again, or is a mistrial the end of the case for those particular counts?

LUCAS: Well, it's up to the government what to do on those. They can decide that they want to have another trial on them, or they can decide that they want to drop the charges. It's really at the discretion of prosecutors.

CHANG: OK. This is the first of the special counsel's cases to come to trial. What do you think? Could this - what does this outcome mean in the Manafort trial for the Mueller team going forward?

LUCAS: Well, it's risky to try to read too much into this. But certainly, if the prosecutors had been unable to get a guilty verdict in this case, I think one could expect that the president would have seized on that. We, of course, know how he views the whole Mueller investigation. And the president has been fairly critical of this trial of Paul Manafort and has voiced his view that Manafort is being treated unfairly.

Now, it's important to remember that the counts in this case are not related to the question of Russian interference, which, of course, is the core question in Mueller's investigation. But it's also important to remember here that this is the first of two trials scheduled for Paul Manafort. Manafort has another trial scheduled for next month in Washington, D.C.

CHANG: Right.

LUCAS: That is on similar charges. But that's conspiracy, money laundering, failing to declare himself as a foreign agent.

So this is not the end of this, and we're going to have another trial right on the heels of this one, assuming that that one's not pushed back.

CHANG: And how did Paul Manafort personally react to the verdict today? Could you see his expression?

LUCAS: Well, when the jury came in to read out the verdict, the defendant - so Manafort in this case - was asked to stand. He stood up at the desk. His counsel stood with him, and he had his hands in front of him and listened with kind of a somber face as the verdict was read out.

CHANG: And how did the rest of the courtroom react?

LUCAS: Well, in the overflow room, journalists scattered out as quickly as possible to get the verdict that he had been found guilty.

CHANG: That's NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thank you, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.