WHO Stole Paul Manafort's Dummied Up Contractor Bill From The Cookie Jar?
The Manafort trial is like watching your first grader tell the world's longest story to her cranky, great-uncle who doesn't really like kids. It's mostly boring, sometimes the old man is rude, but it will probably be fine in the end.
Judge T.S. Ellis, the Eastern District of Virginia's cantankerous uncle, does not have time for your shit. Don't even think about sassing him back! And you can "rein in those facial expressions" right now, Counselor.
Judge T.S. Ellis III said that while he hasn't seen it himself, he's been told that lawyers on both sides have "rolled their eyes" after leaving bench conferences.
The implication, he said, is, "'Why do we have to put up with this idiot judge?'"
And not for nothing do they call EDVA the Rocket Docket. Eight witnesses in one day is perfectly fine. Why ever not?
So if you are a prosecutor trying to show the jurors what a rich dickhead Paul Manafort is by blitzing them with photos of every hideous $15,000 jacket in his wardrobe, you're out of luck.
OH MY GOD!
Fancy schmancy labels? Forget about it!
If it doesn't say 'Men's Wearhouse,' I don't know it.
And as much as we think Paul Manafort is a traitorous sumbitch, if we put on our lawyer hat, we have to agree with Judge Ellis. This is America, and you shouldn't go to jail for being an overprivileged asshole who spends millions of dollars on tacky crap. The prosecution wants to show the jury photos of every $30,000 suit, and every luxury car, and every gaudy mansion. And Judge Ellis's job is to make sure that the jury convicts Paul Manafort because of what he did, not because he's a raging dickhead.
(Although that python jacket is a goddamn crime against humanity.)
Ditto for damning him by association with Russian mobsters. So for the purposes of this trial, Konstantin Kilimnik is a "translator," oligarchs are "businessmen," and Manafort's work in Ukraine just "ended" for ummmm, no reason.
Is it a good thing that Judge Ellis has yelled at the prosecutors and cut them off when they try to introduce more evidence of Manafort's preposterously extravagant lifestyle? NO. Is it the right thing, particularly since Manafort is likely to appeal any conviction? YEAH, PROBABLY.
So the jury got to hear that Manafort spent $929,000 over five years at one of his ultra-high end couturiers and $334,000 in two years at another. But they didn't get to look at the receipts or photos of the clothes. More importantly, though, they heard testimony that an LLC in Cyprus wired in the money to pay for his bling. Can't wait to hear how this was all part of Rick Gates's master conspiracy, as the defense team promised us yesterday.
But you don't need photos to appreciate Lucicle Consultants' generosity when it wired in $68,000 for Mrs. Manafort's Mercedes, $67,655 for Paul's Range Rover, and $83,525 for their daughter Andrea Manafort's Land Rover! Although that's chump change compared to the $1.9 million Lucicle sent from Cyprus to buy Andrea's house in Arlington.
Did Manafort report all the Lucicle money as income when he tallied up with the IRS every April? We're guessing not. Which is why we're not overly panicked that the jury didn't get to see every hideous plaid sport jacket. Although we are looking forward to hearing the defense 'splain to the jury how Manafort's tax issues are all Rick Gates's fault!
Later Manafort's contractor Stephen Jacobsen testified that Manafort used wire transfers from various LLCs in Cyprus to pay for $3.3 million of home renovations between 2010 and 2014. There was also this bizarre exchange.
Jacobsen testified that at one point several of his business bank accounts were closed, and he asked Manafort "if it had anything to do with him."
"He told me, 'Don't worry about it,'" Jacobsen testified. He said Manafort paid him through HSBC Bank, where both men had accounts.
UH HUH. So the bank shut down his accounts, and the contractor immediately assumed it was because he'd been doing business with Paul Manafort? Which Manafort did not deny.
And in a preview of sketchy shit to come, looks like someone dummied up additional invoices to hide ... something?
Early in the afternoon, high-end suit purveyor Maximillian Katzman testified about a bill purportedly from the company he worked for, Alan Couture, to the company "Global Endeavour." But "Couture" was misspelled, the zip code was wrong, and Alan Couture never billed Global Endeavour.
Defense attorney Jay Nanavati asked if Katzman was aware of Rick Gates' "level of education and spelling abilities." Katzman said he was not. He said he never met Rick Gates, although he sometimes emailed with him about Manafort.
Later, Stephen Jacobsen testified that a bill to Global Endeavour had "a faint imprint" of his home improvement company's logo. But he said there was no address for the project, and the $130,000 bill was for "architecture and design," something Jacobsen said he had never done.
Ohhhh, goddammit Ricky. Paul Manafort's legal team says "Rick Gates had his hand in the cookie jar and he couldn't take the risk that his boss might find out." They're trying to pin all his ALLEGED tax shenanigans on you. And now we find out that someone in Manafort's shop is dummying up $130,000 of invoices and slipping them into the home improvement bills? We all know Manafort couldn't even convert a PDF on his own. So we sure as hell hope that money didn't wind up in your checking account, Rick! Because we're pretty sure the defense is going to have a theory on this one, and it won't do much to bolster your cred with the jury.
Shit's gonna get UGLY in Alexandria. And we are here for it!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.