ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Jury deliberations began on Wednesday in the trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, who is charged with 18 counts of bank and tax fraud. The prosecution called more than 20 witnesses and presented a wealth of documents, including Mr. Manafort’s financial records and emails. The defense rested without calling any witnesses, which is not uncommon.
Many factors could affect how the jury weighs the evidence. Here are some.
Rick Gates’s credibility
Mr. Manafort’s close aide for nearly two decades, Mr. Gates helped Mr. Manafort with both his business and personal finances. At Mr. Manafort’s request, he testified, he doctored profit and loss statements, lied to accountants about Mr. Manafort’s foreign bank accounts and helped him deceive bank officers so they would approve millions of dollars in loans for which Mr. Manafort did not qualify.
But Mr. Gates was also a flawed witness. He has pleaded guilty to two felony charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the hope of winning a lighter sentence. He also acknowledged committing a host of other crimes, including embezzling from Mr. Manafort’s accounts.
On the stand, he vacillated between taking responsibility for his misdeeds and trying to minimize them. Asked why he lied on one financial document, for instance, he said he was merely doing his friend “a favor.” Kevin Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, accused him of leading a “secret life” that included at least one mistress, and possibly four.
“By far, the most interesting thing that will play out will be the credibility battle between Manafort and Gates — the yin and the yang,” said Joyce Vance, a law professor at the University of Alabama. “The defense will ask, ‘Are you willing to believe Gates, a serial adulterer who stole from Manafort?’”
But imperfect witnesses are common, said Chuck Rosenberg, a former United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This happens all the time,” he said. “Drug deals run with drug dealers; fraudsters run with fraudsters.”
The key for jurors, he said, will be whether prosecutors have backed Mr. Gates’s testimony with enough other evidence to prove their case.
The judge’s behavior
For the first half of the trial, Judge T. S. Ellis III gave prosecutors a tough time. He interrupted one as he began his opening statement. He continued to interject as the prosecutors put on witnesses, exhorting them to hurry up.
On Day 5, tensions came to a head between the judge and the lead prosecutor, Greg D. Andres. In a private conference at the bench, the judge accused Mr. Andres of losing control.
“I understand how frustrated you are,” the judge told him. “In fact, there’s tears in your eyes right now.” When Mr. Andres denied that, the judge insisted, “Well, they are watery.”
Lawyers fear open criticism for a reason. “As a general rule, jurors often identify with the judge, not with either side,” said Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge and Harvard Law School professor. “This is the person who decides when they’re going to arrive, have breaks and leave at night.”
For any lawyer, she said, repeated scoldings by the judge within the jury’s earshot “are very dangerous.”
During the trial’s second week, perhaps mindful of some negative news media, Judge Ellis became noticeably more polite. And Mr. Andres, now wary, seemed more humble.
The prosecutors persuaded the judge to admit to the jury that he had wrongly chastised them for allowing an agent for the Internal Revenue Service to remain in the courtroom while other witnesses testified. In fact, he had explicitly granted permission for him to do so.
“This robe doesn’t make me anything other than human. I may have made a mistake,” he told the jury. Late Wednesday, before they began deliberations, he told the jurors that while he might admonish overzealous lawyers, that does not mean he has an opinion on the case.
The prosecutors first showcased evidence about Mr. Manafort’s extravagant tastes. They hoped to illustrate how he had spent money from what they called secret foreign accounts even before they showed how he had opened and moved money through them.
Irritated, the judge refused to let them display photographs of Mr. Manafort’s clothing and homes in open court, though he admitted the evidence so the jury could view it during deliberations.
According to tax experts, over-the-top expenditures are a surefire way to grab a jury’s attention.
“Not every juror understands foreign bank accounts, but they all get it when they see someone buying $15,000 ostrich jackets,” said Alexander D. Seddio, a former special agent handing criminal investigations for the I.R.S.
If the jurors are convinced that Mr. Manafort lied to get mortgages, pretending he had earned millions when he had no income, they may judge him harshly, according to Charles A. Intriago, a former federal prosecutor and money-laundering expert.
“Many of them, like me, have scraped money together for a mortgage,” he said. “There’s a great difference between the opulence that this jury sees in Mr. Manafort and what they have to deal with in their own lives.”
An overly complex scheme?
Many jurors jotted notes during testimony. They are responsible for following the intricate transactions of a scheme that is said to have spanned at least seven years.
They must evaluate complicated questions, including: Were some loans bogus and intended only to help Mr. Manafort pay less taxes? Were some of those same fake loans then “forgiven” to help Mr. Manafort seem more creditworthy to banks? Did he pay taxes on less than half of his true income from 2010 to 2014? Did he lie to his accountants about the rest, hiding it in foreign bank accounts of shell companies?
To help simplify the bewildering array of transactions, prosecutors created a series of multicolored summary charts to track the flow of Mr. Manafort’s money.
Some evidence may go over the jurors’ heads, Ms. Gertner said. Still, she said, “they only have to understand enough to believe there was fraud”; if they trust the prosecutors, jurors can follow their guidance about the details.
Trump vs. Mueller
Carl Mcadoo, 60, a retired Army veteran from Maryland, has attended nearly every day of the trial, purely out of curiosity. His question from the start has been: “There is so much crime out there. Why this case? Why this one?”
Gingerly, because the judge has made clear he would not tolerate any political “theater,” Mr. Manafort’s lawyers have tried to plant that question in the jurors’ minds. In their closing statement, they tried to suggest, without saying so directly, that their client had been charged only because the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was interested in whether Mr. Manafort had incriminating information about Mr. Trump. They routinely referred to the prosecution as the Office of Special Counsel, a broad hint.
“They’re trying to show that the defendant is being singled out unfairly. Why aren’t they using regular prosecutors? Why is a ‘special’ one?” Mr. Seddio said. “That could help Manafort.”
In a pretrial hearing, the judge himself suggested the prosecutors had an ulterior motive. “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever,” he said then. But after closing arguments, he instructed jurors to “ignore any argument about the Justice Department’s motive or lack of motive in bringing this prosecution.”
The issue could go both ways for Trump supporters on the jury. The evidence showed that Mr. Manafort traded heavily on his connection to the campaign to obtain bank loans, abusing his ties to Mr. Trump. On the other hand, Mr. Gates, who testified against him, may have betrayed Mr. Trump to a greater degree. Asked whether he had stolen from the president’s inaugural funds — Mr. Gates directed the inaugural committee — he did not deny it.