Paul Manafort

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Unexplained Delay In Proceedings At Manafort Trial

August 10, 2018 - 4:10 pm

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WCBS 880/AP) -- The prosecution in Paul Manafort’s fraud trial was expected to wrap up its case Friday, but it was still going in the afternoon.

As Washington Post National Security Reporter Devlin Barrett explained, there was a delay in the proceedings Friday without explanation.

“The day started with what we expected would be, you know, the calling of a handful of witnesses to finish the prosecution case, and instead, the judge had a series of basically private conversations with the lawyers that stretched into past lunch, and they just started hearing witnesses again about an hour ago, and there’s been no explanation for what the delay was or if there still is an issue,” Barrett said.

During the delay, U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III huddled with attorneys from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office and Manafort's defense lawyers, as well as court security officers, for more than 20 minutes before calling the recess. The judge then exited the courtroom toward the jury room.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Rehkopf said there are some ideas as to why the delay happened.

“They were talking, and it’s possible that this had something to do with the complaint filed by the Mueller investigation yesterday that the judge in the case, T.S. Ellis, wasn’t giving federal prosecutors – particularly Greg Andres – a fair shake in all of this,” Rehkopf said. “As we’ve been reporting, and as you well know by now, Ellis has not been shy about calling out the prosecution when it comes to matters such as just moving the case along or questioning why we’re going down this line of questioning; couldn’t we go here instead and make it shorter?”

There have been many tense moments between prosecutors and the judge, and at one point on Thursday, the judge even apologized, Rehkopf said.

Afterward, the trial resumed with the testimony of a bank executive who says he was pressured for political reasons to give the former Trump campaign chairman more than $16 million in loans.

Dennis Raico, who testified under an immunity agreement, is detailing for jurors how he grew uncomfortable by pressure from Federal Savings Bank chairman Stephen Calk to approve the loans. Prosecutors have said that Calk pushed through the loans for Manafort because he wanted a job in the Trump administration.

Raico told jurors that Calk specifically referenced being a candidate for secretary of the Treasury or Housing and Urban Development.

Manafort is being tried on charges of tax evasion and bank fraud.

Once the prosecution rests, the defense will begin mounting its case – and few details have emerged about the defense team’s plan.

“They’re being very coy so far,” Barrett told WCBS 880's Steve Scott and Michael Wallace Friday afternoon. “We don’t know how many witnesses if any they plan to call. So we had sort of expected to find that out today when the prosecution rested, but now, the prosecution’s going to be pressed to actually wrap up today. The prosecution may not finish today, and so we may have to wait till next week to find out exactly what the defense plans to do.”

As to whether Manafort is likely to testify on his own defense, Barrett noted that it does not happen often, but it cannot be ruled out.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)