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Manafort Blames Gates in Closing as Trial Sprints to a close

Lawyers for Paul Manafort on Wednesday tried to discredit the federal government’s case by asserting the special counsel’s office selectively prosecuted their client and relied on testimony from Rick Gates, a business associate who has admitted to committing criminal acts for his own financial gain.

Richard Westling and Kevin Downing of Manafort’s defense team also told jurors in their often erratic closing arguments that the federal government had not met the burden of proof to convict their client in the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Hold the government to that burden of proof,” said Westling. The six-man, six-woman jury will now deliberate on whether to convict or acquit Manafort of some or all of the 18 criminal counts of tax and bank fraud he has been charged with by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort is accused of concealing millions of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service he made working in Ukraine for President Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions.

The government estimated Manafort made $60 million for that political and policy work. But when the funds from the Ukraine work ran dry, prosecutors say he resorted to defrauding banks to secure millions of dollars in loans.

Westling, though, rejected the idea that Manafort needed money because he had an adjusted net worth of $21.3 million at the end of 2016. Manafort also had “substantial holdings,” his lawyer said. Westling argued that Manafort did not do his work alone, but rather “turned to other people to work together as a team,” including his bookkeeper, accountant, and business partner Rick Gates.

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