Closing Arguments for Manafort Trial Set for Wednesday, if Jurors Can ‘Pay Attention’

Jury could decide former Trump campaign chairman’s fate as early as that evening

The closing arguments for the trial against former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are set for Wednesday. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Closing arguments for the Paul Manafort trial are set to begin Wednesday morning, Judge T.S. Ellis III said in court Tuesday.

The Eastern Virginia jury could decide as early as Wednesday evening whether the former Trump campaign chairman is guilty of any of the 18 counts he is facing on tax evasion and bank fraud.

The judge dismissed a motion from Manafort’s defense team Tuesday to acquit him of all charges.

Manafort, the first subject of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team to stand trial, is facing a maximum 305-year prison sentence.

Lead defense attorney Kevin Downing declined to present a case with any witnesses Tuesday. Manafort decided not to testify on his own behalf, averting a cross-examination by prosecutors.

Ellis called for an early recess Tuesday and to push off closing arguments until Wednesday “to have it all happen in one day,” he said. The judge said last week that he did not want one side to gain an advantage by splitting closing arguments between two days.

Prosecutors have asked for two hours to deliver their closing argument, a request Ellis seems prepared to grant through gritted teeth.

“I’ve never had two hours in closing arguments,” Ellis, who has been a federal court judge for 31 years, said Tuesday.

“It’s very hard for anybody, any juror, to pay attention for two straight hours,” he said.

He asked both legal teams to limit their closing arguments to an hour and a half apiece.

Ellis will resolve a judicial notice related to Monday’s testimony of James Brennan, a vice president at The Federal Savings Bank.

The judge will then draw up instructions to the jury, which the prosecution and defense could dispute trying to add or take away certain elements.

The trial will then recess for the day.

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