The trial of President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort is coming to a quieter than expected end. Manafort’s defense team rested its case on Tuesday without presenting any evidence, which means the trial will move on to closing arguments from both sides at a federal courthouse in Virginia on Wednesday.
The veteran political operative is being tried by a team of prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on a slew of charges related to financial crimes and money laundering.
Kevin Downing, the attorney who’s leading Manafort’s defense, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
While the defense’s decision not to present witnesses to rebut the government’s case raised some eyebrows, it is in line with a common legal strategy, according to Shanlon Wu, a former federal prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney.
It’s a “standard thing to do,” Wu said of the defense strategy, including the decision not to have Manafort take the stand himself.
“It’s certainly not unexpected not to put on Manafort because it’s always risky to put on the defendant,” he said.
Wu stressed that he has no access to confidential information in the case, though he has been a close observer of Manafort’s trial. He previously represented Rick Gates, who worked as Manafort’s deputy at a political consulting firm.
Gates agreed to cooperate with government prosecutors and became a key witness against Manafort after facing his own charges of conspiracy and lying to the FBI. Wu’s representation of Gates ended with that deal to testify.
According to Wu, the decision to rest without presenting a case “can be viewed as a sign of confidence by Manafort’s defense team.”
Manafort’s attorneys may feel they did enough during cross-examination to make their case in closing arguments, he suggested. “They’re also trying to send a signal to the jury that, not only have we done enough, but really the government just hasn’t proven its case,” Wu added.