Michael Cohen says he worked to silence two women ‘in coordination’ with Trump to influence 2016 election

The Washington Post

Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen pleads guilty – makes deal

President Trump’s former attorney pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to charges related to his business dealings, according to those familiar with the matter.

August 21 at 5:50 PM

BREAKING: The president’s longtime personal lawyer, who pleaded guilty to eight violations of banking, tax and campaign finance laws on Tuesday, faces a recommended jail sentence of between four and five years. This story will be updated.

President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Manhattan courthouse to eight violations of banking, tax and campaign finance laws in a federal investigation that scrutinized his business dealings and efforts to silence women with negative stories about Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank and two campaign finance violations: making an unlawful corporate campaign contribution and making an excessive campaign contribution.

“Yes, sir,” Cohen answered when the judge asked if he pleaded guilty.

Cohen — long the self-professed “fixer” for Trump — agreed to the deal after prosecutors claimed he risked more than a dozen years in prison, according to a person familiar with the matter.

His guilty plea follow a months-long grand-jury investigation into Cohen’s activities, including his taxi business, as well as a hush-money payment that Cohen arranged to an adult-film actress, Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had a tryst with Trump years ago.

Cohen has said he used a home-equity line of credit to finance a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016, a month before the 2016 election.

Cohen is the fifth Trump associate to have pleaded guilty or be charged with criminal wrongdoing since Trump took office, including his former national security adviser, his deputy campaign chairman and a former campaign policy adviser.

Cable television played Cohen’s plea in an extraordinary legal split screen, as a Virginia jury convicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts in his bank and tax fraud trial.

Reminded that he had previously vowed to “take a bullet” or “do anything” to protect the president, Cohen told ABC in July that Trump is not his top priority. “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty,” he said.

Last month, Cohen attorney Lanny Davis released an audio recording of a September 2016 conversation between Trump and Cohen in which they discussed a deal that a Playboy model made to sell the rights to her story of an alleged affair with Trump. The move was seen as a dramatic turn against Trump by the Cohen camp.

 
3:26
Trump’s many denials about knowledge of Michael Cohen’s payments

CNN aired audio from 2016 of Trump and Cohen discussing paying for a story about an alleged affair, after months of Trump and his advisers claiming ignorance.

Trump’s current attorney and advisers have said he has nothing to fear from Cohen.

“If he gets indicted for something that has nothing to do with the president, well, I feel sorry for Michael, although I don’t know how sorry I feel for him, because he was tape recording the world and deceiving them, including his client,” Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani told Fox News on Monday.

“But it has nothing to do with us,” he added.

Cohen’s plea agreement comes just one day after the New York federal court overseeing the seizure of Cohen’s records finished its review of which documents were protected by attorney-client privilege.

The case against Cohen stems in part from a referral by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and examined Cohen’s role in at least two episodes involving Russian interests, according to people familiar with that probe.

However, special-counsel investigators have indicated to federal law enforcement officials that the office does not require Cohen’s cooperation for its probe, according to two people familiar with their work.

The Cohen investigation first burst into public view in April, when FBI agents searched his New York office, home and hotel room. The searches — in which agents collected all of Cohen’s phones and electronic devices — set off panic in the White House that federal investigators were looking into Trump’s business dealings and communications with Cohen.

Since then, the probe has led to revelations about how Cohen sought to squelch negative stories about Trump and then leverage his access to the president.

After the raid, Giuliani acknowledged that the president had made several payments reimbursing Cohen for the $130,000 settlement with Daniels. Trump had previously denied knowledge of the payoff.

Meanwhile, leaked documents showed that Cohen was paid millions last year by companies such as AT&T and Novartis to provide advice about the new administration.

Cohen had been under scrutiny by federal prosecutors starting in the fall of 2017, when Mueller’s team came across some unusual financial transactions and loans Cohen had obtained.

The special counsel referred the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which has been looking for evidence of possible bank fraud, wire fraud or violations of campaign finance laws in Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigation has examined loans related to Cohen’s taxi medallion business and whether any laws were broken as part of an effort to stifle negative stories about Trump when he was running for president, according to people familiar with the matter.

A central focus of the probe has been on matters that have nothing to do with Cohen’s most famous client but rather Cohen’s attempts to borrow substantial sums of money against his taxi medallions and evidence suggesting he lied to get the money. On more than a dozen loan documents, according to two people familiar with investigators’ work, Cohen dramatically inflated the value of his medallion business year after year, even as the industry suffered from the rise of ride-hailing businesses.

In May, a New York taxi operator and former Cohen business partner agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a plea deal in a separate New York state criminal tax fraud case.

Cohen is also under investigation for defrauding the IRS and failing to report his earnings, according to one person familiar with requests for information about Cohen’s financial records.

Cohen worked for Trump for more than a decade, starting in 2007. The raid on Cohen’s office enraged the president, who claimed prosecutors were violating attorney-client privilege.

Cohen also argued that prosecutors had violated attorney-client privilege by seizing what his lawyers said could be thousands or more items related to his work as a lawyer.

It is unusual for investigators to seize the papers of an attorney, but in court filings federal prosecutors maintained that Cohen was doing very little legal work and that they were investigating his business dealings to search for evidence of potential crimes.

U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood appointed a former federal judge to act as a special master and review the seized items to assess what material must be withheld from investigators because it is covered by attorney-client privilege.

In the end, only a tiny fraction of the seized material was found to be covered by the privilege, according to court filings.

Although Cohen has for years been portrayed as a lawyer who handled some of the most important and sensitive issues for Trump, the president has insisted to associates in recent months that Cohen was not that closely involved with him.

However, Giuliani said in May that Cohen was routinely asked to handle issues that could cause personal embarrassment for Trump, such as the claim of an affair by Daniels.

Trump has denied the affair, but Cohen directed that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, be paid $130,000 just before the November 2016 election to ensure her silence, Cohen acknowledged this year.

“The agreement with Michael Cohen, as far as I know, is a long-standing agreement that Michael Cohen takes care of situations like this, then gets paid for them sometimes,” Giuliani said in May.

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others

Manafort guilty on 8 counts of tax and bank fraud, with jury deadlocked on other 10

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. The judge declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 charges.

August 21 at 5:58 PM

A jury has found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on tax and bank fraud charges — a major if not complete victory for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he continues to investigate the president’s associates.

The jury convicted Manafort on eight of the 18 counts against him and said it was deadlocked on the other 10. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those charges.

Manafort stood impassively, his hands folded in front of him, and showed little reaction as the clerk read the word “guilty” eight separate times. As through most of the three-week trial, Manafort showed no apparent emotion as he looked at the six women and men who convicted him.

President Trump reacted to the verdict by denouncing Mueller’s investigation.

“It doesn’t involve me … it’s a very sad thing,” the president said after arriving in West Virginia for a political rally, adding that the Manafort case “has nothing to do with” Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” Trump said. “Again, he worked for Bob Dole, he worked for Ronald Reagan. He worked for many people. And this is the way it ends up.”


Paul Manafort’s attorneys, Kevin Downing, center, Richard Wetling, left, and Thomas Zehnle leave the Federal Courthouse after their client, Paul Manafort, was convicted on 8 counts of tax and bank fraud. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Manafort, 69, was found guilty of filing a false tax return in each of the years from 2010 through 2014, as well as not filing a form to report a foreign bank account as required in 2012. He was also convicted of two different instances of bank fraud, related to a $3.4 million loan from Citizens Bank and a $1 million loan from Banc of California.

The charges on which the jury deadlocked included three counts for not filing a form to report a foreign bank account, and seven for committing bank fraud or conspiring to commit bank fraud.

After the clerk read the verdict, Ellis asked the jurors if they wanted to keep their names confidential. The group responded, “Yes, sir.” Ellis then said he’d keep their names under seal, but that they could talk about the case if they desire.

The judge thanked the jury members for their service and they were dismissed.

Once the jury left the courtroom, Ellis asked Manafort to approach the lectern. The judge told Manafort that he would be ordering a pre-sentencing report and it was important for Manafort to “pay careful attention to the preparation of the document.” Manafort, in a black suit, listened as the judge explained the pre-sentencing process.

 
0:57
‘I feel very sad’: Trump reacts to Manafort guilty verdict

President Trump reacted on Aug. 21 to the conviction of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts tax and bank fraud charges.

Manafort’s possible prison sentence wasn’t immediately clear, but legal experts said he likely faces more than a decade in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

The verdict comes as President Trump has stepped up his criticism of Mueller’s investigation, publicly criticizing it on a weekly basis. As the Manafort trial began, Trump called for the probe to be shut down immediately.

Manafort’s guilty verdict may strengthen Mueller’s hand as he continues to investigate possible conspiracy and seeks an interview with the president; an acquittal could have led to a broader effort by conservatives to shut down the special counsel’s office.

The 18 charges in the Manafort trial centered around Manafort’s personal finances, and had little to do with the special counsel’s mandate of probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts.

But the trial was the first to emerge from Mueller’s probe, and as such it marked a significant public test of his work.

The jury deliberated for four days before announcing its verdict.

Over two weeks of testimony, more than two dozen witnesses, including his former right hand man Rick Gates, as well as his former bookkeeper and accountants, testified against Manafort. They said he hid millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts that went unreported to the IRS, and then later lied to banks in order to get millions of dollars in loans.

His lawyers had argued that Gates, not Manafort, was the real criminal, pointing to Gates’ admitted lies, theft, and infidelity. Gates pleaded guilty in February to lying to the FBI and conspiring against the United States, and has said he hopes to get a lesser prison sentence by cooperating against Manafort.

Prosecutors, in turn, told the jury that the most compelling evidence in the case were the dozens of documents, many of them emails, showing Manafort oversaw the false statements to the IRS and banks.

Manafort called no witnesses at all, as his lawyer argued prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to defraud the government or banks. Manafort’s lawyers repeatedly suggested their client might not have known the law.

The trial featured heated arguments at times — not between the government and defense lawyers, but between U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis and prosecutors. The judge repeatedly chided prosecutors in front of the jury, though at the end of the trial he urged the panel not to consider during deliberations any opinions he may have expressed.

Manafort faces a second trial in September in Washington D.C., on charges he failed to register as a lobbyist for the Ukraine government, and conspired to tamper with witnesses in that case. Manafort has been in jail since June as a result of the witness tampering charges.

On Tuesday morning, the jury sent a note indicating they were split on at least one count. At that time, Ellis said he might be open to accepting a partial verdict at a later point, but not yet.

Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing argued jurors should be given a new verdict form that would give them the option to be undecided on the charges. The “third option should be hung as to each count,” said Downing, who added that the jury “shouldn’t be misled” into thinking that a hung jury is inappropriate.

Prosecutor Greg Andres objected to that suggestion, saying such a form goes against the judge’s instruction for the jury to keep deliberating. The judge agreed, saying that if the jurors still can’t come to a consensus after he sends them back to continue deliberating, then he would “ask them to tell me where they stand.”

When the jurors were brought into the courtroom, Ellis told them only that if they failed to agree on a verdict, the case would be “left open and undecided,” and that there was no reason another 12 jurors could decide the case “better or more exhaustively” than they could. He told jurors not to yield their beliefs, but asked them to consider whether they stood in the minority, and if so, whether they should change their minds.

The president has repeatedly spoken out publicly in support of Manafort, both at the trial’s outset and during jury deliberations. On Monday morning, Trump tweeted that Mueller’s investigators “are enjoying ruining people’s lives and REFUSE to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side — the lies, the firings, the deleted Emails and soooo much more! Mueller’s Angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are a National Disgrace!”

During closing arguments last week, Manafort’s lawyers accused the special counsel’s office of having gone on a fishing expedition to find evidence of financial crimes.

“Nobody came forward to say we’re concerned about what we’re seeing here. Not until the special counsel showed up and started asking questions,” lawyer Richard Westling said, suggesting the special counsel “cobbled together” information to “stack up the counts” against Manafort and overwhelm the jury.

“It is not enough that wrong information or even false information was given,” Westling said, telling jurors that to convict his client, they had to be convinced that Manafort intended to deceive banks and the IRS.

Downing, another defense lawyer, said the government was so desperate to charge Manafort they made a deal with Gates, who should not be trusted.

“To the very end, he lied to you,” Downing told the jury.

Prosecutors charged Manafort failed to pay taxes between 2010 and 2014 on millions of dollars in overseas bank accounts which he kept hidden from his accountants and the IRS. He earned that money working as a consultant for Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych fled Ukraine in 2014 amid massive street protests, causing Manafort’s income to dry up, according to witnesses.

Prosecutors called Manafort’s bookkeeper and former accountants to testify against him. Those witnesses said Manafort misled them about foreign bank accounts he controlled. A former accountant for Manafort said she went along with falsifying information on Manafort’s tax return to lower the amount he would have to pay.

Other witnesses included employees of luxury clothing stores, a landscaper, and a home entertainment company employee, all of whom testified to the big ticket purchases Manafort made — paid via wire transfers from foreign bank accounts.

Witnesses said Manafort spent a small fortune at the time he was cheating the IRS — more than $1 million on clothes, including a $15,000 ostrich jacket, more than $2 million on home entertainment systems, and millions of dollars on homes for himself and his family. One witness said Manafort spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on landscaping, including a bed of red flowers in the shape of an “M” in the backyard of his Hamptons home.

Michael Brice-Saddler contributed to this report.

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The Washington Post

Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen pleads guilty – makes deal

President Trump’s former attorney pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to charges related to his business dealings, according to those familiar with the matter.

August 21 at 5:50 PM

BREAKING: The president’s longtime personal lawyer, who pleaded guilty to eight violations of banking, tax and campaign finance laws on Tuesday, faces a recommended jail sentence of between four and five years. This story will be updated.

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President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Manhattan courthouse to eight violations of banking, tax and campaign finance laws in a federal investigation that scrutinized his business dealings and efforts to silence women with negative stories about Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank and two campaign finance violations: making an unlawful corporate campaign contribution and making an excessive campaign contribution.

“Yes, sir,” Cohen answered when the judge asked if he pleaded guilty.

Cohen — long the self-professed “fixer” for Trump — agreed to the deal after prosecutors claimed he risked more than a dozen years in prison, according to a person familiar with the matter.

His guilty plea follow a months-long grand-jury investigation into Cohen’s activities, including his taxi business, as well as a hush-money payment that Cohen arranged to an adult-film actress, Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had a tryst with Trump years ago.

Cohen has said he used a home-equity line of credit to finance a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016, a month before the 2016 election.

Cohen is the fifth Trump associate to have pleaded guilty or be charged with criminal wrongdoing since Trump took office, including his former national security adviser, his deputy campaign chairman and a former campaign policy adviser.

Cable television played Cohen’s plea in an extraordinary legal split screen, as a Virginia jury convicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts in his bank and tax fraud trial.

Reminded that he had previously vowed to “take a bullet” or “do anything” to protect the president, Cohen told ABC in July that Trump is not his top priority. “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty,” he said.

Last month, Cohen attorney Lanny Davis released an audio recording of a September 2016 conversation between Trump and Cohen in which they discussed a deal that a Playboy model made to sell the rights to her story of an alleged affair with Trump. The move was seen as a dramatic turn against Trump by the Cohen camp.

 
3:26
Trump’s many denials about knowledge of Michael Cohen’s payments

CNN aired audio from 2016 of Trump and Cohen discussing paying for a story about an alleged affair, after months of Trump and his advisers claiming ignorance.

Trump’s current attorney and advisers have said he has nothing to fear from Cohen.

“If he gets indicted for something that has nothing to do with the president, well, I feel sorry for Michael, although I don’t know how sorry I feel for him, because he was tape recording the world and deceiving them, including his client,” Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani told Fox News on Monday.

“But it has nothing to do with us,” he added.

Cohen’s plea agreement comes just one day after the New York federal court overseeing the seizure of Cohen’s records finished its review of which documents were protected by attorney-client privilege.

The case against Cohen stems in part from a referral by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and examined Cohen’s role in at least two episodes involving Russian interests, according to people familiar with that probe.

However, special-counsel investigators have indicated to federal law enforcement officials that the office does not require Cohen’s cooperation for its probe, according to two people familiar with their work.

The Cohen investigation first burst into public view in April, when FBI agents searched his New York office, home and hotel room. The searches — in which agents collected all of Cohen’s phones and electronic devices — set off panic in the White House that federal investigators were looking into Trump’s business dealings and communications with Cohen.

Since then, the probe has led to revelations about how Cohen sought to squelch negative stories about Trump and then leverage his access to the president.

After the raid, Giuliani acknowledged that the president had made several payments reimbursing Cohen for the $130,000 settlement with Daniels. Trump had previously denied knowledge of the payoff.

Meanwhile, leaked documents showed that Cohen was paid millions last year by companies such as AT&T and Novartis to provide advice about the new administration.

Cohen had been under scrutiny by federal prosecutors starting in the fall of 2017, when Mueller’s team came across some unusual financial transactions and loans Cohen had obtained.

The special counsel referred the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which has been looking for evidence of possible bank fraud, wire fraud or violations of campaign finance laws in Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigation has examined loans related to Cohen’s taxi medallion business and whether any laws were broken as part of an effort to stifle negative stories about Trump when he was running for president, according to people familiar with the matter.

A central focus of the probe has been on matters that have nothing to do with Cohen’s most famous client but rather Cohen’s attempts to borrow substantial sums of money against his taxi medallions and evidence suggesting he lied to get the money. On more than a dozen loan documents, according to two people familiar with investigators’ work, Cohen dramatically inflated the value of his medallion business year after year, even as the industry suffered from the rise of ride-hailing businesses.

In May, a New York taxi operator and former Cohen business partner agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a plea deal in a separate New York state criminal tax fraud case.

Cohen is also under investigation for defrauding the IRS and failing to report his earnings, according to one person familiar with requests for information about Cohen’s financial records.

Cohen worked for Trump for more than a decade, starting in 2007. The raid on Cohen’s office enraged the president, who claimed prosecutors were violating attorney-client privilege.

Cohen also argued that prosecutors had violated attorney-client privilege by seizing what his lawyers said could be thousands or more items related to his work as a lawyer.

It is unusual for investigators to seize the papers of an attorney, but in court filings federal prosecutors maintained that Cohen was doing very little legal work and that they were investigating his business dealings to search for evidence of potential crimes.

U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood appointed a former federal judge to act as a special master and review the seized items to assess what material must be withheld from investigators because it is covered by attorney-client privilege.

In the end, only a tiny fraction of the seized material was found to be covered by the privilege, according to court filings.

Although Cohen has for years been portrayed as a lawyer who handled some of the most important and sensitive issues for Trump, the president has insisted to associates in recent months that Cohen was not that closely involved with him.

However, Giuliani said in May that Cohen was routinely asked to handle issues that could cause personal embarrassment for Trump, such as the claim of an affair by Daniels.

Trump has denied the affair, but Cohen directed that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, be paid $130,000 just before the November 2016 election to ensure her silence, Cohen acknowledged this year.

“The agreement with Michael Cohen, as far as I know, is a long-standing agreement that Michael Cohen takes care of situations like this, then gets paid for them sometimes,” Giuliani said in May.

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others

Manafort guilty on 8 counts of tax and bank fraud, with jury deadlocked on other 10

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. The judge declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 charges.

August 21 at 5:58 PM

A jury has found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on tax and bank fraud charges — a major if not complete victory for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he continues to investigate the president’s associates.

The jury convicted Manafort on eight of the 18 counts against him and said it was deadlocked on the other 10. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those charges.

Manafort stood impassively, his hands folded in front of him, and showed little reaction as the clerk read the word “guilty” eight separate times. As through most of the three-week trial, Manafort showed no apparent emotion as he looked at the six women and men who convicted him.

President Trump reacted to the verdict by denouncing Mueller’s investigation.

“It doesn’t involve me … it’s a very sad thing,” the president said after arriving in West Virginia for a political rally, adding that the Manafort case “has nothing to do with” Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” Trump said. “Again, he worked for Bob Dole, he worked for Ronald Reagan. He worked for many people. And this is the way it ends up.”


Paul Manafort’s attorneys, Kevin Downing, center, Richard Wetling, left, and Thomas Zehnle leave the Federal Courthouse after their client, Paul Manafort, was convicted on 8 counts of tax and bank fraud. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Manafort, 69, was found guilty of filing a false tax return in each of the years from 2010 through 2014, as well as not filing a form to report a foreign bank account as required in 2012. He was also convicted of two different instances of bank fraud, related to a $3.4 million loan from Citizens Bank and a $1 million loan from Banc of California.

The charges on which the jury deadlocked included three counts for not filing a form to report a foreign bank account, and seven for committing bank fraud or conspiring to commit bank fraud.

After the clerk read the verdict, Ellis asked the jurors if they wanted to keep their names confidential. The group responded, “Yes, sir.” Ellis then said he’d keep their names under seal, but that they could talk about the case if they desire.

The judge thanked the jury members for their service and they were dismissed.

Once the jury left the courtroom, Ellis asked Manafort to approach the lectern. The judge told Manafort that he would be ordering a pre-sentencing report and it was important for Manafort to “pay careful attention to the preparation of the document.” Manafort, in a black suit, listened as the judge explained the pre-sentencing process.

 
0:57
‘I feel very sad’: Trump reacts to Manafort guilty verdict

President Trump reacted on Aug. 21 to the conviction of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts tax and bank fraud charges.

Manafort’s possible prison sentence wasn’t immediately clear, but legal experts said he likely faces more than a decade in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

The verdict comes as President Trump has stepped up his criticism of Mueller’s investigation, publicly criticizing it on a weekly basis. As the Manafort trial began, Trump called for the probe to be shut down immediately.

Manafort’s guilty verdict may strengthen Mueller’s hand as he continues to investigate possible conspiracy and seeks an interview with the president; an acquittal could have led to a broader effort by conservatives to shut down the special counsel’s office.

The 18 charges in the Manafort trial centered around Manafort’s personal finances, and had little to do with the special counsel’s mandate of probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts.

But the trial was the first to emerge from Mueller’s probe, and as such it marked a significant public test of his work.

The jury deliberated for four days before announcing its verdict.

Over two weeks of testimony, more than two dozen witnesses, including his former right hand man Rick Gates, as well as his former bookkeeper and accountants, testified against Manafort. They said he hid millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts that went unreported to the IRS, and then later lied to banks in order to get millions of dollars in loans.

His lawyers had argued that Gates, not Manafort, was the real criminal, pointing to Gates’ admitted lies, theft, and infidelity. Gates pleaded guilty in February to lying to the FBI and conspiring against the United States, and has said he hopes to get a lesser prison sentence by cooperating against Manafort.

Prosecutors, in turn, told the jury that the most compelling evidence in the case were the dozens of documents, many of them emails, showing Manafort oversaw the false statements to the IRS and banks.

Manafort called no witnesses at all, as his lawyer argued prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to defraud the government or banks. Manafort’s lawyers repeatedly suggested their client might not have known the law.

The trial featured heated arguments at times — not between the government and defense lawyers, but between U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis and prosecutors. The judge repeatedly chided prosecutors in front of the jury, though at the end of the trial he urged the panel not to consider during deliberations any opinions he may have expressed.

Manafort faces a second trial in September in Washington D.C., on charges he failed to register as a lobbyist for the Ukraine government, and conspired to tamper with witnesses in that case. Manafort has been in jail since June as a result of the witness tampering charges.

On Tuesday morning, the jury sent a note indicating they were split on at least one count. At that time, Ellis said he might be open to accepting a partial verdict at a later point, but not yet.

Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing argued jurors should be given a new verdict form that would give them the option to be undecided on the charges. The “third option should be hung as to each count,” said Downing, who added that the jury “shouldn’t be misled” into thinking that a hung jury is inappropriate.

Prosecutor Greg Andres objected to that suggestion, saying such a form goes against the judge’s instruction for the jury to keep deliberating. The judge agreed, saying that if the jurors still can’t come to a consensus after he sends them back to continue deliberating, then he would “ask them to tell me where they stand.”

When the jurors were brought into the courtroom, Ellis told them only that if they failed to agree on a verdict, the case would be “left open and undecided,” and that there was no reason another 12 jurors could decide the case “better or more exhaustively” than they could. He told jurors not to yield their beliefs, but asked them to consider whether they stood in the minority, and if so, whether they should change their minds.

The president has repeatedly spoken out publicly in support of Manafort, both at the trial’s outset and during jury deliberations. On Monday morning, Trump tweeted that Mueller’s investigators “are enjoying ruining people’s lives and REFUSE to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side — the lies, the firings, the deleted Emails and soooo much more! Mueller’s Angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are a National Disgrace!”

During closing arguments last week, Manafort’s lawyers accused the special counsel’s office of having gone on a fishing expedition to find evidence of financial crimes.

“Nobody came forward to say we’re concerned about what we’re seeing here. Not until the special counsel showed up and started asking questions,” lawyer Richard Westling said, suggesting the special counsel “cobbled together” information to “stack up the counts” against Manafort and overwhelm the jury.

“It is not enough that wrong information or even false information was given,” Westling said, telling jurors that to convict his client, they had to be convinced that Manafort intended to deceive banks and the IRS.

Downing, another defense lawyer, said the government was so desperate to charge Manafort they made a deal with Gates, who should not be trusted.

“To the very end, he lied to you,” Downing told the jury.

Prosecutors charged Manafort failed to pay taxes between 2010 and 2014 on millions of dollars in overseas bank accounts which he kept hidden from his accountants and the IRS. He earned that money working as a consultant for Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych fled Ukraine in 2014 amid massive street protests, causing Manafort’s income to dry up, according to witnesses.

Prosecutors called Manafort’s bookkeeper and former accountants to testify against him. Those witnesses said Manafort misled them about foreign bank accounts he controlled. A former accountant for Manafort said she went along with falsifying information on Manafort’s tax return to lower the amount he would have to pay.

Other witnesses included employees of luxury clothing stores, a landscaper, and a home entertainment company employee, all of whom testified to the big ticket purchases Manafort made — paid via wire transfers from foreign bank accounts.

Witnesses said Manafort spent a small fortune at the time he was cheating the IRS — more than $1 million on clothes, including a $15,000 ostrich jacket, more than $2 million on home entertainment systems, and millions of dollars on homes for himself and his family. One witness said Manafort spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on landscaping, including a bed of red flowers in the shape of an “M” in the backyard of his Hamptons home.

Michael Brice-Saddler contributed to this report.