Jury In Manafort Trial Reaches Verdict On 8 Charges, Judge Declares Mistrial On Others

Aug 21, 2018
Originally published on August 21, 2018 8:50 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A jury has convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on tax and fraud charges. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on 10 other counts. NPR's national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is here to talk through the verdict and then what comes next. Hey there, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So this jury deliberated for nearly - what? - four days, and they couldn't come to a consensus on all the charges. What did this look like in the courtroom?

JOHNSON: Well, earlier in the day, the jury had signaled it was having some trouble reaching a decision. This was a heavy case. There were 27 witnesses, nearly 400 exhibits - tax returns, foreign bank accounts in Cyprus, testimony from bankers. It's not a huge surprise the jury couldn't decide 10 of the charges. Those were mostly bank fraud counts.

But they did convict on all of the charges that involve false tax returns, one count of failing to file a foreign bank account report and two counts of bank fraud. That's no small thing here. The chairman of President Trump's campaign during a crucial period in 2016 has now been convicted of multiple felonies, even if those felonies did not involve his work on the Trump campaign.

CORNISH: What happens to those other counts, the parts of the case where the jury couldn't reach a decision?

JOHNSON: Prosecutors have until August 29 to tell the judge whether they want a new trial on those 10 counts or to just let it slide. Remember; Paul Manafort is 69 years old. Any sentence on those eight convictions today could send him to prison for the rest of his life already. And Manafort faces another trial related to his foreign lobbying and alleged money laundering in Washington, D.C., in September. Manafort's lawyer says when it comes to these Virginia convictions, he's evaluating all his options now.

CORNISH: You were in the courtroom for the verdict, as we said. What was the atmosphere like?

JOHNSON: Well, the tension seemed to go up in the room. As more people filed in, it got warmer. And lots of marshals and court security officers showed up in the courtroom to monitor the doors. Paul Manafort stood up. He blinked slowly several times as the clerk read the first three guilty verdicts. Otherwise, he didn't show much emotion. Afterward, the judge thanked the six men and six women of this jury. The judge said their names would remain secret for now. The jurors looked pretty tired, Audie. They've been living with this case for 16 long days.

As for Paul Manafort, he walked out of the courtroom and back into the custody of U.S. marshals. When it was all over, all of the government lawyers shook hands with all of the defense lawyers, kind of like a baseball game at the end but a really somber one.

CORNISH: President Trump has been very critical of this whole investigation. And this afternoon, he also called it a witch hunt. He also talked about Paul Manafort being a good man. Tell us more about what's going on there.

JOHNSON: Well, you know, President Trump has called this investigation a witch hunt, but it's hard to call it a witch hunt when the first jury to consider these charges by a special counsel, Robert Mueller, has handed down guilty verdicts. That said, there is a political element here. And this case could still end in a political way with a pardon from President Trump.

Manafort's longtime lawyer, former lawyer and longtime adviser Richard Hibey, was in this courtroom for most of the trial. He's very low-key and very skilled. He's represented a lot of people in Washington scandals over the last several decades. One of them is the former CIA official named Clair George. Clair George was convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal years and years ago. And only a couple of weeks after his conviction, President George H.W. Bush pardoned George and several other people tied up in that scandal.

It's still possible that Paul Manafort's fate could happen in the same way, but a little too soon to tell for now. It's also really interesting that this Justice Department and FBI, which President Trump has been beating up on, continue to do their work day in and day out, including today in this courthouse in Virginia.

CORNISH: That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thank you for your reporting.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.