Jurors deliberated for a third day Monday in the trial of Paul Manafort, asking the judge to go late and start first thing Tuesday morning. There were no major questions asked of the judge Monday – and no verdict, either.
There are 18 counts of bank and tax fraud against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman. But Manafort and his lead lawyer say they aren’t worried.
“The jury has announced that they are going to continue to deliberate starting tomorrow morning at 9:30. Mr. Manafort is very happy to hear that. And this was a very good day,” Manafort’s lead attorney, Kevin Downing, said Monday.
Joining us to discuss the jury deliberations and more is former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. An assistant U.S. attorney from 2007 to 2016, Mariotti is now a partner in the law firm Thompson Coburn and recently was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Illinois attorney general.
Below, an edited Q&A Mariotti.
This was day three of deliberations. Is it better for the defense the longer the deliberations go?
Generally speaking, yes, in the sense that if there was going to be a quick verdict, it would be a prosecution verdict. So in a case like this, there was overwhelming evidence. A lot of documents and e-mails and other evidence. The fact that it’s drawn out suggests that there might be a holdout or two who are not completely convinced of his guilt. That’s realistically what the defense is looking for here. They’re not trying to get a not-guilty verdict which is very difficult particularly given the evidence here. They’re trying to get a hung jury. One or two jurors who disagree with the rest and are unwilling to find a guilty verdict.
So let’s say they get a hung jury on a couple or few of the 18 counts. Is that somehow a win?
Well, it’s a win if you’re the attorney on the case and you’re grading on a curve. So if I was sitting in that attorney’s office and he was saying, “Hey, I got them to hang on three counts,” I’d say, “Wow, you did a really good job. That was a very tough case.”
So, getting any defense result is a good outcome. But if we’re talking about Paul Manafort and his life, it doesn’t help him at all.
Is this longer than you thought it would go without a verdict?
Yes. I originally thought that there would be a verdict right before the weekend because jurors are human beings and they don’t like to come back and do something that’s not enjoyable and stay away from their homes and families and lives. But, I will say this jury seems very diligent. They appear to be very aware that this is a prominent case. Sometimes, you know, jurors aren’t aware when they’re in a high-profile case. This jury appears to be aware that they’re on a very important case. I think they’re taking their job very seriously. So, it may not be as bad of a sign as you might think. In other words, I’d still, if I was a betting man, I would still be betting on a guilty verdict on many counts for Mr. Manafort.
Just how important is this first case for the Mueller team and the future of the Mueller investigation?
So I think it’s extremely important on two different levels. On one hand, obtaining a conviction of Paul Manafort I think demonstrates to other people that are under investigation that it’s important for them to cooperate because the consequences could lead to significant conviction. If Paul Manafort was somehow able to escape conviction, that could embolden others to challenge Mueller and fight themselves.
On a totally separate level, and I think on a more important level, the president and his team have undertaken these very high-profile public campaigns to undermine and discredit Mr. Mueller and his investigation. And so, I think that just from an optics perspective and a public perception perspective, I think this trial takes on a heightened importance. If Mr. Mueller obtains a conviction on many counts of Manafort, I think what it sends the message that he’s putting his head down and accomplishing things.
Rudy Giuliani said recently that Mueller needs to put up or shut up and that would be a putting up, so to speak. If, however, there was a hung jury on all counts or on the vast majority of counts, you could imagine the president saying that this is an example of overreach by Mueller or that it shows his charges are unwarranted.