Trump’s name, his 2016 campaign and his inauguration came up several times during the Manafort trial on its sixth day. Trump has now become an unmistakable presence in the background.
Documents and testimony spelled out Manafort’s myriad ties to Trump and his 2016 White House run. They showed that Manafort sought to ease financial pressures by trading on his influence in Trump’s orbit. His longtime deputy, Rick Gates, said it was “possible” he had stolen money from Trump’s inauguration committee. The court even learned that Manafort’s ties to Trump extend well beyond the 2016 campaign. A 2013 document entered into evidence showed that Manafort planned to share his New York Yankee season tickets with Trump.
Manafort “worked for me for a very short time,” Trump tweeted last week. “These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!”
In an interview with POLITICO Rudy Giuliani dismissed the significance of the frequent references to the president, and derided Gates’s credibility. “Who can tell when he’s telling the truth?” Giuliani asked.
U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis has all but banned explicit discussion of the president and his campaign. During opening statements last week, Manafort defense attorney Tom Zehnle referred vaguely to Manafort’s role in “the candidacies of … multiple U.S. presidents,” but avoided mentioning Trump by name.
Before Tuesday, Trump’s name had barely been uttered in the Virginia federal courtroom. Last week, a home improvement contractor who did work for Manafort made a passing mention to work he’d done on Manafort’s apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower.
That changed on Tuesday. In questioning by prosecutor Greg Andres Tuesday, Gates described the work he and Manafort did for Trump in 2016.
“He ultimately became chairman of the campaign,” Gates said of his longtime boss. Gates acknowledged that he remained when Manafort left the campaign, and also that he worked for Trump’s inaugural committee.
With permission from the judge, prosecutors also discussed an alleged Trump campaign connection to $16 million in loans Manafort received in 2016 and 2017 from Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank. Prosecutors say that in order to receive loans from the bank, Manafort lied about his finances and did favors for its CEO.
Gates acknowledged Tuesday that Calk, the CEO of that Chicago bank, landed a position on the Trump campaign’s economic advisory board. Andres also showed the jury a post-election email from Manafort to Gates pushing Calk for a high-ranking Pentagon post.
“Rick…We need to discuss Steve Calk for [Secretary] of Army. I hear the list is being considered this weekend…P,” said the message.
Manafort was also involved in putting together the inauguration list for Trump.
Another email released by prosecutors as part of the same court exhibit indicates that Calk asked Manafort for at least 11 inauguration tickets. In a surprise twist, Gates admitted under questioning that he may have stolen money from Trump’s inaugural committee.