Mueller Prosecutors Reveal the Real MVP of Paul Manafort’s First Trial

Paul Manafort mugshot

Special counsel Robert Mueller‘s prosecutors revealed just how little Rick Gates‘ testimony against Paul Manafort mattered to them during closing arguments on Wednesday. It happened just after we got finished talking about reporting that says Mueller has never needed Gates as a witness against Manafort, but as a witness to Trump campaign-Russia connections.

Indeed, Gates has been referred to as Mueller’s star witness on numerous occasions. If you listened to what prosecutor Greg Andres had to say as Manafort’s bank and tax fraud trial wraps up in Virginia, however, it’s pretty clear that the thing that mattered the most was documents.

Law&Crime’s Colin Kalmbacher transcribed Andres’ words from the courtroom as follows:

“The star witness in this case is the documents,” Andres said.

To those familiar with white collar trials in particular, this is the opposite of a surprise.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, for example, went so far as to say “this is true of nearly all white collar cases.”

“They rise and fall on the the strength of the documents and emails,” he said. “The documents in this case are damning, which is why Manafort is in such a difficult position.”

It is worth mentioning that the prosecution took care not to attack Manafort for being wealthy, which is not a crime. Judge T.S. Ellis III was particularly unhappy with detailed descriptions of Manafort’s wealth early on in the trial.

Instead, the prosecution focused on “lies” — which is what fraud is — and documentation, some of which were lies themselves.

The government’s downplaying of Gates’ testimony is notable. What they are essentially telling the jurors is, whether or not you believe a word of what Gates had to say and whether or not you like him, the documents the government has presented prove Manafort is guilty being a reasonable doubt.

[Image via Alexandria Detention Center]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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