Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

Kevin Downing, the lead attorney for Paul Manafort, is pacing around the lobby of this hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, across the street from the courthouse, and staring anxiously out the window. Another defense lawyer, Richard Westling, is currently sitting across the lobby charging his phone.

There’s a lot of us here.

After the rush of covering Paul Manafort’s lengthy trial in Virginia, dashing in and out of the courtroom with news from the witness stand, we’re now left waiting as the jury deliberates, with little sense of how long they’ll take.

Those reporters who are not waiting inside the chilly courtroom for a note from the jury or a verdict are either waiting outside with their camera crews or here, across the street, in a hotel lobby with the lawyers for the defense. Manafort’s legal team is gathered in the hotel restaurant near a window that looks out at the courtroom.

Also spotted in the hotel this afternoon is Manafort’s wife, her friend who accompanied her each day of the trial, and Manafort’s spokesman.

We’re all clueless about the timing of the verdict and preparing for the mad dash across the street whenever the jury sends up the signal.

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The proceedings in Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial will begin for the week at 1 p.m. this afternoon, and the lawyers for both sides are expected to give closing arguments in the case by the end of the week.

Due to a delay on Friday morning, the prosecution still has at least one witness to question this afternoon, and may briefly ask another witness about Manafort’s alleged failure to report his foreign bank accounts.

Given that, the prosecution should rest its case by mid-afternoon today, leaving open the possibility that the defense begins calling witnesses today.

We expect Manafort’s team to call only a few witnesses, compared to the prosecution’s 27 witnesses. There’s a possibility that the defense could rest its case by the end of the day Tuesday, but it might spill into Wednesday.

After the defense finishes calling its witnesses, lawyers for both sides must discuss with the judge any instructions they have for the jury. We have little insight into exactly how long this will take. If we’ve learned anything about Judge T.S. Ellis, its that he is impatient and will try to move things along. However, there’s also the possibility that this part of the trial could drag out if the prosecution and defense quibble over jury instructions. We expect this to take about half a day. Optimistically, this would be done by late Tuesday, but it could very well take place Wednesday morning.

Depending on how long the defense and jury instruction takes, closing arguments will take place either Wednesday or Thursday. Ellis told the lawyers last week that they would have two hours to deliver their closing arguments. Ellis also said he is hesitant to break up closing arguments over two days, increasing the chance that the trial won’t end until Thursday.

After closing arguments, the jury will have to deliberate. It’s unclear just how long this would take, so we could get a verdict as early as Friday, but the jury could also deliberate over the course of a few days.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA — Paul Manafort purchased season tickets for the New York Yankees from 2010 through 2017, with at least some of those seasons in the “Legends Suite,” according Irfan Kirimca, the senior director of ticket operations for the Yankees.

A ticket agreement admitted by prosecutors from 2014 showed that Manafort had purchased tickets for a “Legends Suite,” which “provides first-class accommodations,” according to the MLB website. Those accommodations include a private entrance, cushioned seats, all inclusive food and in-seat wait service.

In a humorous moment, prosecutor Brandon Van Grack on Friday asked Kirimca to explain what the New York Yankees is, prompting Kirimca to explain that it’s a Major League Baseball team.

Evidence about Manafort’s season tickets has slowly trickled in throughout Manafort’s Virginia trial, and Friday’s testimony from Kirimca completed the circle.

As an employee from the Federal Savings Bank testified earlier on Friday, Manafort had a $300,000 outstanding balance on his credit card when he applied for a loan as of February 2016. Manafort’s former deputy Rick Gates testified earlier this week that in order to explain away this liability, Manafort had Gates write a letter claiming that he borrowed Manafort’s card to purchase the tickets but had not yet paid him back.

Kirimca testified Friday afternoon that the Yankees have no record of Gates purchasing tickets and that Manafort was a season ticket holder through 2017.

In an email with Yankees employees in March of 2016 shown in court, Manafort confirmed enthusiastically that he and his wife would be attending opening day for the team that year.

An email chain from November 2011 indicated that at that time, Manafort was paying for his tickets with money from foreign accounts. Manafort told an employee for the Yankees to expect a $226,800 wire from one of the foreign accounts he allegedly used as payment for his 2012 season tickets.

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As Paul Manafort watches the parade of witnesses testifying against him in his Virginia trial, he appears calm and serious. He often directs his attention to the witness stand or to documents admitted into evidence as he listens to testimony, but we’ve caught him yawning at least once.

In the crowded courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, my colleague Tierney Sneed and I don’t generally have a great view of Manafort and his reactions. He is seated so that his back is turned away from the general public, and only a few seats in the courtroom let us see the side of his face during trial. From what we have seen, he has a pretty good poker face during the proceedings.

What we’ve mostly been able to witness is how Manafort behaves during breaks in the proceedings when the jury is not in the room.

During those times, he can be seen having moments of levity while chatting with his lawyers. Even at the end of the first day that Rick Gates testified, Manafort could be seen smiling at his lawyers on his way out of the courtroom.

Another example: On Thursday morning before trial began for the day, Manafort was huddled with his lawyers chatting and laughing. One of his attorneys, Thomas Zehnle, at one point whispered something to Manafort. Zehnle then patted Manafort on the back while they both laughed.

Tierney and I were intensely interested in how Manafort would react while Gates was on the stand — his former right-hand man was now testifying that he helped Manafort break the law.

Yet it was tough to see Manafort’s face during that time, and your trusty reporters were often busy taking notes on what the key witness had to say. But at the times when I could see Gates, he appeared to avoid eye contact with his former boss. And Manafort looked at Gates while he spoke, as Manafort often does during witness testimony.

After the cross examination of Gates ended on Wednesday, Manafort could be seen during breaks looking at a document and taking notes in a yellow legal pad without his lawyers around. It’s unclear whether this had to do with Gates’ testimony or another matter entirely.

Manafort’s wife, Kathleen Manafort, attends the trial proceedings every day, seated in the front row behind Manafort. She is joined by a friend every day, and a second friend has started coming to court with her this week. Manafort can be seen smiling at his wife occasionally, as well as at his spokesman, Jason Maloni.

Kathleen Manafort has appeared relatively calm during the proceedings, and can be seen smiling and chatting with her friends and Maloni during breaks.

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Following testimony on a $3.4 million loan obtained by Paul Manafort in 2016 from employees at Citizen’s Bank, a third employee testified that Manafort’s application for a $5.5 million construction loan from that bank was denied later in the year.

Manafort was working on the Trump campaign as he worked with the bank to obtain the loan.

Emails shown during the testimony of Taryn Rodriguez, a loan officer assistant at Citizen’s Bank, indicate that Manafort applied for the construction loan on his property on Union Street in Brooklyn in early 2016 and engaged with bank employees about the loan until mid-August 2016.

Rodriguez testified that she discovered that Manafort had a mortgage on his Union Street property, a fact he and his deputy Rick Gates allegedly hid while applying for another loan at Citizen’s Bank that was approved. An email shown by prosecutors indicated that bank employees discovered this loan just a few days after Manafort closed on a loan for his Howard Street property, located in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.

Documents shown by prosecutors and  Rodriguez’s testimony indicated that Manafort and Gates submitted a letter from their accountant claiming that a $1.5 million loan was forgiven in 2015 and a 2016 profit and loss statement. Testimony from earlier in the trial suggested that both of those documents were doctored in some way to inflate Manafort’s income.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA — Throughout Paul Manafort’s trial here, witnesses have indicated that Manafort started running out of cash when his Ukraine work dried up in 2014. This apparent reduction in income appears to have prompted Manafort, along with his deputy Rick Gates, to submit false or misleading documents to banks to obtain loans.

Although we’ve seen a lot of the numbers throughout the trial, Tuesday offered the best glimpse into just how worried Manafort was about paying bills, specifically his tax bill. An email submitted into evidence on Tuesday and made available to the press Tuesday night shows Manafort reacting angrily to the amount of taxes he owed on his 2014 tax returns.

“WTF?” Manafort wrote in the email to Gates dated April 17, 2015. “How could I be blindsided like this. You told me you were on top of this.”

“We need to discuss options. This is a disaster,” Manafort continued in the email. “When am I supposed to write this check?”

The email from Manafort came after Gates informed him that the tax accountants had calculated that Manafort would have an increase in taxes of about $509,000 in 2014. Gates testified on Tuesday that the email chain took place when Manafort’s accountants revealed that the actual amount owed by Manafort in taxes would be higher than they had projected earlier.

Gates told Manafort in the email that he was working with the accountants on ways to possibly reduce the amount of taxes Manafort would owe as a result of his 2014 return.

Read the entire email chain below:

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ALEXANDRIA, VA — Rick Gates testified on Tuesday afternoon that his former boss, Paul Manafort, doctored a profit-and-loss statement that went through July 21, 2016, in order to secure a loan.

While questioning Gates, lawyers for special counsel Robert Mueller admitted into evidence an email from Oct. 21st, 2016 — about two months after Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign — containing a profit-and-loss statement for 2016 that showed Manafort’s consulting firm made $3 million through July 21, 2016.

An earlier profit-and-loss statement for the same period showed that Manafort’s consulting firm had lost $638,000.

In a previous email from around the same time, Manafort asked Gates how to convert a PDF into a word document. A lawyer for the prosecution asked Gates what Gates thought Manafort meant when he asked for help converting the file.

Gates replied that he understood that Manafort was “going to make some sort of change to it.”

Gates also testified that, in the new profit-and-loss statement, some of the text alignment looked off. Gates testified that this sometimes happens when you convert a PDF into a word document to change it.

Manafort is on trial here facing bank and tax fraud charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Gates was Manafort’s right-hand man during the pair’s lobbying work in Ukraine. Special counsel Robert Mueller originally charged Gates alongside Manafort, but Gates reached a plea deal with Mueller in exchange for cooperating in the investigation.

Gates took the stand for the first time on Monday afternoon, and returned for three hours of questioning by the prosecution this morning. This afternoon, Paul Manafort’s legal team is expected to cross-examine Gates.

Just before that testimony, lawyers for the prosecution went through some emails from March 2016 in which Gates tried to work with Cindy LaPorta, an accountant for Manafort, to create a letter that would have inflated Manafort’s income. That was around March 22, 2016. Manafort joined the Trump campaign on March 29, 2016, and Gates served as his deputy.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA — Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s former deputy, testified on Tuesday that he helped Manafort provide false information to banks in order to obtain loans.

Gates told the courtroom that Manafort asked Gates to change certain things in order to obtain loans after the Ukraine income dried up in 2014.

“He had requested certain things be changed,” Gates said of his role in the alleged bank fraud.

Prosecutors first presented an email in which Manafort told Gates that he would claim his home in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan as a second residence (even though it was a rental property) when applying for a loan at Citizens’ Bank.

“In order to have the maximum benefit, I am claiming Howard St. as a second home. Not an investment property,” Manafort wrote in an email admitted by prosecutors.

Gates said that Manafort told him to get in touch with Philip Ayliff, one of Manafort’s tax accountants, but Gates said he could only reach Cindy LaPorta, another accountant who received immunity to testify last week. Gates said he spoke to LaPorta about listing the property as a residence.

Gates also testified that he helped Manafort provide old documents to Citizen’s Bank in order to hide the fact that Manafort had a mortgage on his Brooklyn property. Gates said that at Manafort’s request, he sent a 2015 insurance policy for the home that did not list a mortgage on the home, even though the more current 2016 insurance policy noted the mortgage.

Finally, before the court recessed for lunch, Gates said that he helped Manafort convert a $1.5 million 2012 loan from Peranova Holdings into income while applying for a loan in 2016. Gates said that he backdated a letter claiming that the loan was forgiven, even though it was not. Previous evidence has indicated that Peranova, a company Gates said Manafort controlled, never loaned Manafort money. Manafort listed the income as a loan in 2012 in order to reduce his taxable income, according to Gates. A letter backdated to 2015 was signed by a member of the law firm that ran Manafort’s Cypriot accounts, Gates said.

Gates will resume his testimony around 1:30 p.m. ET when the jury returns from lunch recess.

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On day five of Paul Manafort’s trial in Virginia, casual observers and journalists alike were eager to see Manafort deputy Rick Gates take the stand. This became clear when Kevin Downing, a lawyer representing Manafort, let it slip that Gates would testify soon, sending reporters scrambling out of the courtroom to relay the news.

Judge T.S. Ellis then told the courtroom that, while the last time Gates was mentioned and reporters ran out of the room it was “disruptive” and “mildly amusing,” the second such stampede was “not amusing” and even more disruptive.

Before Gates’ testimony was announced, court staff were relatively tolerant of some whispering among the public and press, as well as reporters’ need to leave and re-enter the courtroom to file updates.

However, once Gates’ impending arrival was broadcast, those in the courtroom struggled to contain their excitement and court staff policed the whispers more closely. The court security officer told several people to keep quiet or “take it outside” while the lawyers for both sides met with the judge at the bench before a special agent for The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network testified briefly ahead of Gates.

Before Gates took the stand, Ellis called a short recess. While members of the public last week begrudgingly tolerated reporters’ attempts to save their seats in the room while they filed, the atmosphere in the room changed once everyone knew the star witness would soon testify. Members of the public lobbied harder for seats left vacant by reporters who ran out to post updates, repeating Ellis’ constant reminder that there are no assigned seats in his courtroom. Right up until the recess ended, people milled about the room, hoping to snag a seat for the proceedings began again. People squeezed as many onlookers as they could into the courtroom’s wooden benches, and everyone else had to watch the proceedings from an overflow room with a video stream of the trial.

Wish us luck tomorrow as we cover the second day of Gates’ testimony.

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