ALEXANDRIA, VA — Paul Manafort has been convicted of eight counts in his fraud trial and could spend the rest of his life in prison. Manafort, wearing a dark suit and powder-blue tie, stared intently at the jury as the clerk read off the guilty verdicts on five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two bank fraud charges. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria also declared a mistrial around 4:40 p.m. on the 10 remaining counts in the trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.
Manafort, who is almost certainly going to see years in prison, was disappointed that he wasn’t acquitted on all counts and is weighing his options, his lawyer told reporters after the announcement. The lawyer did not answer any questions.
The news comes just hours after the jurors asked the judge what would happen if they failed to agree on at least one count. Multiple reporters live-tweeted the trial as deliberations dragged on late in the fourth day. Within minutes of news breaking that a verdict had been reached, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer,” pleaded guilty to eight counts under a deal with prosecutors.
Cohen, who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, admitted he broke campaign finance laws in connection with hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago. Cohen also pleaded guilty to bank fraud and tax evasion, The Associated Press reported, citing two people familiar with the deal. The campaign finance charges involve payments to two women, AP reported. It wasn’t immediately known if the agreement required Cohen to cooperate in the Russia probe or with other investigations.
In the high-stakes Manafort trial, lines of spectators surrounded the courthouse for 15 days, with the last punctuated by moments of intense drama. Prosecutors closely scrutinized the details of Manafort’s luxurious lifestyle, including a $15,000 ostrich jacket, a $21,000 watch and $1,500 dress shirts, not to mention his meticulously manicured flower bed in the shape of a large “M” at his estate in the Hamptons.
Prosecutors accused Manafort of hiding at least $16 million in income from the IRS between 2010 and 2014. They said Manafort declared only some of his foreign income on his federal income tax returns and repeatedly failed to disclose millions of dollars that flowed into the U.S. to fund his lavish lifestyle.
During the trial, Manafort’s lawyers — who didn’t call a single witness to testify in his defense — said prosecutors failed to meet the necessary burden of proof. They also attacked the credibility of star witness Rick Gates, who was once Manafort’s protege.
Gates spent three days telling jurors how he committed crimes with Manafort for years and said he doctored documents, lied on others and created phony loans to lower Manafort’s tax bill. He also admitted he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars without Manafort’s knowledge by filing bogus expense reports.
The trial stemmed directly from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but didn’t specifically touch on allegations of election meddling. Judge Ellis had said he received threats over the case and was being protected by the U.S. Marshals Service. Ellis said he would not unseal the names and addresses of the jurors out of fears for their safety even though multiple news outlets filed a motion seeking documents and the names of the jurors.
Trump on Friday wouldn’t say whether he’d pardon Manafort should he be convicted, but did say it was “very sad” what happened to Manafort. On Tuesday, Trump reiterated his claim that Manafort is a good man and stressed the convictions had nothing to do with collusion. He plans to hold a rally in West Virginia, where he is expected to advocate for rolling back Obama-era regulations on coal emissions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo credit: Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press